Great Reads

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Recent Reads
I thought I would pass along my thoughts on a couple of books I’ve just recently completed. If either one, or both, peaks your interest, they are worth the time invested.

1. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. You’ve heard it said that the best way to defeat your enemy is to know him. With keen insight, Lewis exposes some of the deceitful means Satan often employs to keep us from faith in the Lord. He does so in a fascinating way, from the viewpoint of a top ranked demon, Screwtape, as he trains his nephew, Wormwood, in the cunning skill of deceit. In describing to Wormwood the differences between God and the world of darkness, Screwtape writes,

“We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over.” p.39

Beyond interesting and thought-provoking, beyond a behind-the-scenes look at demonic strategy, Lewis sets forth in The Screwtape Letters the greatness of God and the unstoppable power of the Gospel!

2. Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome. By Owen Strachan. Strachan serves as executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. Strachan addresses in his book how fear of man or hypothetical outcomes often derail us from living out our faith to its potential. When we are constrained by fear and do not go about our lives living by faith, we miss out on experiencing God’s greatness, power, and reliability at work in us. The initial chapters set the context of how weak faith increases stress and how the gospel calls us to step out in faith relying on the Word of God and the character of God. For the remainder of the book, Strachan applies “risky gospel” to specific areas of life; faith, family, work, church, evangelism, and citizenship.Risky Gospel encourages faithful living by trusting in our faithful Lord. The closing words of the book are an apt summary…

“Soon, brothers and sisters, we’ll be in glory, and we’ll celebrate what the gospel accomplished for us by God’s awesome grace: we risked the world, losing nothing… and trusted in Christ, gaining everything.” p.222

Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Book Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of the most beloved children’s classics of all time, although it is not just for young readers! C.S. Lewis was a gifted writer with a keen sense of the human condition and of how Christianity, in its truest form, is the answer to all of life’s serious questions.

Just as Bunyan captured the struggles and joys of salvation in his thoughtful analogy Pilgrim’s Progress, so Lewis masterfully captured the drama of redemption in the genre of fantasy. Whether its Edmond’s portrayal of sin and forgiveness, the Lion’s act of substitutionary sacrifice, or the defeat of the Wicked Queen, a wealth of biblical truth is presented throughout the adventures of four kids in the land of Narnia.

Large, true-to-life and true-to-Scripture themes like deceit, courage, and reconciliation are easily recognized, both as the story develops and as the reader relates to the narrative.

Above all, my favorite description of Lewis is his embodiment of Christ as the great lion, Aslan. When questioned by the children if Aslan is safe, Mr. Beaver replies, “‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” By saying he isn’t safe, Mr. Beaver was referring to his awesome and great power. As Mrs. Beaver says, “…if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” His very presence strikes fear. His roar drowns all other sounds and stops the hearts of his enemies. Of his might, there is no doubt.

However, might is not his only obvious, glaring trait. Coupled with being the mightiest of all, he is also good. His might is not used to trample, to dominate, or to tyrannize. His might serves his goodness. He makes right. He does right. He puts down the foe and raises up the friend. He ends the curse of an enduring winter with no Christmas and brings about a kingdom of peace. He’s good.

This enjoyable classic is one to read and read again.

Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Book Recommendation: Look and Live

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Having trouble jump-starting your morning devotions?

Discouraged by not getting much out of your Bible reading – if at all?

Do the joy-filled disciplines of the Christian life seem more like going-through-the-motions?

Do you find yourself in a spiritually dry place?

We’ve all been there. It’s time for a reset!

I highly recommend this book to you – “Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ” by Matt Papa. Matt is a worship leader of a local church and has done a wonderful job of combining sound doctrine and practical counsel in a very readable, accessible book.

If you read this book, you will desire to behold your Savior! Thoroughly edifying!!

Christ Supreme!
Wil Owens

Book Recommendation: Is God anti-gay?

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Is God Anti-gay?: And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same Sex Attraction. By Sam Allberry. The Goodbook Company: UK, NA, 2013.

There is no doubt in my mind that the issue of our day is homosexuality, and there is equally no doubt in my mind that Is God Anti-gay? is therefore a MUST read for every believer!

Allberry is more than qualified to provide this well-written, biblically-sound, pastorally sensitive contribution that will help clarify the issues, answer objections, and point people to the only true hope, the Gospel. Allberry is a single guy who serves as an associate pastor in the UK. He struggles with same sex attraction (SSA) and has found his strength, hope, and life in the Gospel.

In fact, the greatest strength of Allberry’s book is that he sets the issue of homosexuality within the larger context of the Gospel. In doing so, he is able to identify homosexuality or SSA as sin, just like any other sin, a distortion, rejection, of God’s good provision and will for marriage and our sexuality. The point is that we are all sinners, whether this happens to be our specific struggle or not. Therefore, the Gospel is the hope and answer for the homosexual just as it is for every other sinner in this world.

Allberry not only carefully reasons from Scripture regarding God’s good design for sex and marriage, he also carefully answers from Scripture the common objections against the biblical view of sexuality. Furthermore, in a very pastoral and caring tone, Allberry explains to those who struggle with this issue how the answer for them is the Gospel. He explains the power and sufficiency of the Gospel from Scripture and from his personal testimony of applying the Gospel to his life, that is, his struggle with SSA. For additional counsel, Allberry explains how the church and individual believers can reach out to those who face this issue with biblical, wise, gospel help.

In the final analysis, the answer for those who struggle with SSA is not “God loves me and this is the way I am.” The answer is “God loves me enough to make me more than I presently am!” And that is the answer for all of us!

Highly recommended. Greatly needed!

Calling Parents Back to Their God-given Joy and Responsibility

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Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God. Voddie Baucham Jr. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007.
This is one of those books that comes along every so often and causes quite a stir throughout the church, not only by its content but also by its implications. To some it sounds so radical, so out of the box, even shocking. In the final analysis though, it is very biblical. The shock value and the wake up call this book represents only goes to show how far we may have moved from a simple and precious biblical standard.
So what’s so shocking? Parents are called by God to be the primary disciplers of their children. Now that may not sound so unusual at first glance, but when you begin understanding the ramifications of such a calling, it forces Christian parents to re-evaluate how they parent and churches to re-evaluate how they minister. Now the wide-eyed faces appear!
Voddie Baucham, through personal experience and application of key biblical texts, outlines in this book how taking on the role of primary discipler for his children transformed his life, started the making of a new church model, and calls on all Christian parents and churches to seriously consider how the Bible prescribes raising our children.
In terms of strengths, this reader thoroughly appreciates Baucham’s contribution and would highlight at least three. First, Baucham encourages parents to not only embrace the Bible’s call to be the primary discipler of their children but he provides anecdotal illustrations to enable parents to catch the vision and begin the journey. Second, Baucham stresses how the church has, even with good intentions, structured itself to allow parents to set aside their role and rely solely on the church. This is not God’s will for the home. As parents teach and discipline their children, the church is meant to reinforce and support. Third, since this reviewer was only familiar with the content apart from reading, Baucham’s approach was far more inviting, charitable, and balanced than previously suspected. Granted, if one disagrees with Baucham’s conclusions, he will be tasked heavily to prove his own point because it is clear that Baucham has carefully thought through any objections. However, the tone is not dogmatic but rather graciously challenging.
No doubt the impact of this book surfaces when you finish reading. Parents will need to think through with much prayer and confidence in Scripture how to discipline, how to educate, and how to disciple their children. This may call for a radical change in priority, scheduling, and perspective. Churches, particularly leadership, will need to think through prayerfully and biblically how it is structured so that corporately and within each ministry the church is supporting and encouraging families. Some adjustments may be minor – some may be massive!
In terms of weakness, there is only one that stands out. Baucham’s resulting metaphor for the church is that it is to be a “family of families.” While that rightly emphasizes some glaring corrections the church needs to make, it doesn’t fully satisfy the NT presentation. It seems that the NT church is rather a brand new family, one composed of families for sure, but one also composed of singles, believing children without believing parents, and believing spouses married to unbelievers. No doubt Baucham and his church has a strategic way to incorporate these into the church, but the metaphor indicates these believers are somehow not “completely” in the church because they are not members of a believing family within the larger believing family of the church. However, to be entirely fair, Baucham acknowledges in his preface that this metaphor was intended to be a statement on the structure of the church, not the nature (p.7). So in essence, this weakness vanishes with this clarification. In the same way, however, the church model, family-integrated church, may unintentionally place an unnecessary burden upon those members who do not fit because they do not come to church as part of a complete believing family unit. The fully family-integrated model could cause frustration for singles, single parents, divorcees, and children who are the only believer in the home. That’s not to say these hurdles cannot be overcome through intentional design by the family-integrated church. It is only to say not every believer belongs to a believing family unit. So the question becomes how do these genuine believers, genuine members of Christ’s body, fit and feel welcomed into the family-integrated church model. How do you meet them at the “front door” without them turning away from first impressions? Is there some elbow room for these considerations in the FI model? Have these considerations already been acknowledged and alleviated in the FI model?
That being said, the model should not discourage parents and churches from fully examining this book’s helpful, biblical corrections and encouragements. Having grown up in the traditional model of church ministry and having in recent years discovered the joys and trials of educating, biblically disciplining, and intentionally discipling my own children, this one is a must read for every parent and church leader.
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor