The Mingling Of Souls

the mingling of soulsSong of Solomon has always been one of the most difficult to understand books of the Bible for me. Why is it in the Bible? Is it a “love story?” Is it allegory? How does it relate to and apply to my life? All of these are questions that I have had (and continue to have) about the book of Song of Solomon. Odds are, so have you.

Well, one author and popular pastor, Matt Chandler, has written a new book on love and marriage based on the book of Song of Solomon, and attempts to give the reader some answers to their questions. The title of the book is The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, & Redemption. 

I have to confess — When I first saw this book, I thought, “Oh, no. Another book on dating, relationships, and marriage. And this one is going to use Song of Solomon as the ‘blueprint’ or ‘guide’ for the relationship advice.” Thankfully, Chandler makes it crystal clear in the introduction that he does not see Song of Solomon as a “Christian guide to dating.” Rather, he says that “it is clear from the book that there is a wise way to approach the opposite sex and that there is a foolish way. What we see in the Song is saturated with wisdom, and the believer in Christ will be reminded of the nurturing, patient, steadfast love of our Savior” (18-19).

What about the title? What does the “mingling of souls” mean? Chandler gets the title from the meaning of one of the Hebrew words for love — dod. This sort of “love” refers specifically to sexual love and is better translated as “lovemaking,” Chandler says. He quotes Paul House by saying that the word carries the meaning of “two souls mingling together.” That’s quite a word-picture, isn’t it? He goes on: “God’s plan is for a man and a woman in the bond of the marriage covenant to have their souls — not just their bodies — become one” (17). God’s plan is for them to have their souls mingled together.

Content

So what are the topics that Chandler addresses in the book? Well, that is one of the strengths of the book. Chandler focuses on a wide array of topics, beginning with the attraction that leads to wanting to pursue a relationship in the first place, to the dating process, courtship, the wedding, the consummation of said wedding, fighting fair, kindling romance, and commitment in the face of hardship. He really covers the whole relationship-process from beginning to end.

Dating

My favorite chapters in the book were on dating and courtship. Probably because of my role as a youth pastor and my time spent with so many teenagers, I have seen as much misconceptions in this area of dating within the Christian life as just about anything else. He hits the nail on the head when he says: “Dating becomes a lot about hiding who you really are, hiding your imperfections, and in many cases, unfortunately, displaying and making primary what ought to be reserved only for marriage” (51). That is — sex. And on this topic of sex and dating, he says:

“If sex is what God says it is, then there are few things as damaging to the human soul as casual sexual encounters. The hookup culture is yet another symptom of a confused and broken society that has elevated the role of physical gratification and sex beyond the biblical norms and wasted them, sacrificing contentment and joy on the altar of momentary pleasure — leaving only brokenness and regret (52).”

Throughout this chapter on dating, he gives several parameters to think through before pursuing a dating relationship as a Christian. And after giving these helpful parameters, he moves onto the chapter on courtship, which is where he argues (rightly so) that true Christian dating should have a specific trajectory in mind — marriage. And if that trajectory is not desired or clearly not going to happen, then the dating relationship should end. Clear and simple.

Who Is The Book For?

I think that this book should appeal to a wide array of readers. For the teenager or college student, the chapters on attraction, dating, and courtship are extremely helpful. For the engaged couple, the chapter on marriage will be a great source of help. For the married couple, whether for a couple of years or a couple of decades, the chapters on fighting fair and commitment to the end are incredibly useful for any marriage. Honestly, no matter where you are in life, at least one of the chapters in the book will be directly applicable and helpful to you. But the strength of the book is its comprehensiveness from the beginning to the end of a relationship — from the attraction between man and woman in the beginning to the commitment between husband and wife to the end.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Admittedly, Matt Chandler is one of my favorite communicators. He has the rare ability to engage the reader (or listener) in a very real and fresh way, while at the same time committing to solid, conservative, evangelical, truth. This book is yet another example of that. Chandler does not waver for one second in his commitment to the definition of marriage, the biblical role between husband and wife, the purpose of dating for the Christian, etc. Rather, he makes it clear, from the book of Song of Solomon and the rest of Scripture, what God’s design truly is for love, marriage, sex, and redemption. And that is a message that we all need to hear and be reminded of, both inside and outside of the church, particularly in the culture of sex that we find ourselves in today.

Click here to read an interview that Matt Chandler did with The Gospel Coalition on the book.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank David C Cook Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

40 Questions about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

40 questions about baptism and the lord's supperImagine you had the opportunity to sit down with a theologian and ask him any question you had about the topics of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That would be a great opportunity, wouldn’t it?

Well, though we may not have that exact opportunity, a new book by John Hammett gives us the next best thing. The book is 40 Questions about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and in it, John Hammett, professor of Systematic Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, answers 40 of the most important and most asked questions related to these two ordinances of the church.

Structure

The book is divided into 4 main parts

  1. General Questions about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  2. Questions about Baptism
  3. Questions about the Lord’s Supper
  4. Concluding Questions

The first part deals with questions concerning whether these two things should be called sacraments or ordinances, who can administer them, and are they reserved exclusively for churches?

The next two parts are identical in structure, with the first related to baptism and the second to the Lord’s Supper. Each part has 4 subsections:

(A) Introductory Questions. In this section are questions such as “Why was Jesus baptized” and “What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper?”

(B) Denominational Views. In both the sections on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, there are five main views laid out for the reader: (1) Roman Catholic, (2) Lutheran, (3) Reformed, (4) Baptist, and (5) Other Traditions.

(C) Theological Issues – This section contains some of the most asked and most debated questions around the two doctrines. A few of the questions are: “Should infants be baptized?”, “Is there a proper mode of baptism?”, and “Who may properly partake of the Lord’s Supper?”

(D) Practical Aspects – Finally, there are some practical questions that many of us ask, especially if you are in any form of leadership in the church. Some of the practical aspects that are addressed in this book are, “When should a child be baptized?” and “How often should the Lord’s Supper be observed?”

Who Is The Book For?

This is probably not a book that you are going to sit down and read cover to cover (though you certainly could). Rather, it seems best to function as a reference tool, a quick guide to some of the most commonly asked and debated questions over the very important topics of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Personally, I found the volume very helpful and trust that I will likely pull it down from my shelf time and time again to refresh my memory on a particular question, or gain some guidance from the many helpful footnotes that Hammett includes to point me to a more extensive treatment of a particular issue.

Now I probably found the volume so helpful because, by and large, I agree with the author on most of the questions that he addresses. But you may not. Hammett approaches the doctrines as a committed baptist, decidedly against infant baptism, and seems to lean to a “closed communion” view. If that is you, then you, too, will find the volume helpful as a quick guide or reference tool. Or maybe that’s not you, but you’re interested in learning why baptists believe the way they do about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This would be a great start for you as you wade into those waters. Or maybe you are just confused and not quite sure what to believe about all of these debates on these two ordinances. Again, this book would be an excellent beginning for you on your journey for clarification about what the Bible teaches on these topics.

Conclusion

Overall, I found the book to be very helpful, well written, concise, and informative. I would recommend the book to anyone that wants further clarification or answers on the topics of baptism or the Lord’s Supper.

You can buy the book by clicking here

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Kregel Publishers for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

God Made ALL Of Me

god made all of meThe release of new children’s books is not generally something that brings me a great deal of excitement. Certainly, I am on the lookout for good books for my son as he gets old enough to read, and as parents we are looking for what’s coming out and what’s already out, but on my “scale of excitement” for the release of new books, children’s books don’t usually top that list.

Until now.

A new book by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb, God Made All Of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies, is one that I am very excited about and am convinced that every Christian parent should look at adding to their children’s libraries. The purpose of the book is to help 2 to 8-year-olds understand why their bodies matter and distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touch.

It is a sad reality of this sinful world that we live in that a book like this would ever need to be written. However, it IS a reality. And as Christian parents, we can either ignore the reality and set our children up to fall prey to such abuse, or we can confront the reality and teach and instruct our children in a way to protect them from this evil.

“The message children need to hear is: ‘God made all of you. Every part of your body is good, and some parts are private. He made the parts of your body that other people see every day, and he made your private parts. Every part is good because God made every part and called them all good.'”

The book is very well laid out, colorful, and engaging for children. It starts out affirming that God created all of us, every body part — including our private parts. The book then goes on to explain to the child what the difference is between “normal” body parts and “private” parts.

“Everyone’s body has private parts. Private parts are not for sharing and should be kept private. It is important to ask for help if someone shares or shows their private parts or asks you to share or show yours.

Also, there are no such things as games that involve private parts. There are no prizes, treats, or rewards for showing or touching private parts”

The book also goes to great lengths to make sure that the child understands that he/she is in charge of their body, can say “no” if they don’t want someone touching them (even something like a hug or kiss), and makes sure that they know the difference between a “surprise” and a “secret.”

My wife and I will absolutely be using this book to teach our son about his body and to prepare him to know what is okay and not okay in order to protect himself against sexual abuse from anyone. I would absolutely recommend you buy a copy for your own family and consider doing the same.

Many of us think: “That would never happen to my child.” We must not think that! With statistics like “One in four women and one in six men have been or will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime,” this is not a matter that we can take lightly or think will not happen to us. We are given the incredible privilege and responsibility of protecting our children in all sorts of spheres of life, including abuse. This book will be a very useful tool to you as a parent to protect your child as you are commissioned by God to do.

Click here to go to the book’s website to learn more.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank New Growth Press for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Some Recent Sermons

sermon banner

Below are some recent sermons that I have had the privilege of preaching over the past couple of months at Grace Bible Church.

1 Peter 3:8-12 — Pursuing The Good Life

Hebrews 4:14-16 — How To React In Your Time Of Greatest Need

1 Peter 3:13-22 — Suffering As A Pathway To Blessing

Gaining By Losing

Gaining by LosingGaining by losing … now that’s a foreign concept in our culture today, is it not? How do I gain if I lose something? It’s a foreign concept in the church as well. The American church, by and large, is all about attracting people to its building, building up a church and a big ministry, and growing, growing, growing. But what if that’s not the model that Scripture actually gives us? What if Jesus teaches us that there’s actually a different mindset we should have when thinking about advancing the Kingdom of God?

J.D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, NC, argues just this. In his new book, Gaining By Losing: Why The Future Belongs To Churches That Send, Greear argues that churches should not be focused primarily on their numbers and in growing bigger and bigger, but should be focused on discipling, equipping, and sending out their members for the greater work of the ministry. Oftentimes this means sending out a large group of some of your most valuable members in order to help start a church plant across town, or even across the country. That’s the “losing” that we’re talking about. But as Greear makes abundantly clear, though it may seem that that particular church has “lost” those members, an even greater “gain” has occurred for the kingdom of God in the neighborhood, city, country, and world.

An Illustration

Greear likens it to the Middle school math illustration where students are asked to choose between receiving $10,000 a day for 30 days, or getting $0.01 doubled each day for the same period of time. Almost all Middle schoolers opt for the $10,000 per day because it seems like the greater amount, and offers the most immediate satisfaction. However, with this choice, the student will have $300,000 at the end of the 30 days, whereas the student who opts for the penny doubled every day would end the month with over $10.7 million!!

The point is this: Many churches and leaders opt for the “$10,000 a day” model. You tell Pastor “X” that you have a strategy that will grow his church by 1,000 per month for a year, or a strategy that will enable him to disciple 1 person per week, who in turn will disciple 1 person a week, and so on for a year, odds are he will choose the 1,000 per month growth strategy. Why? Because it feels much more gratifying. It has more immediate and tangible resultsHowever, we as churches and pastors need to get over the “short view” of ministry, only looking to what God would do in our church and through our ministry in the here and now, and adopt a “long view” of ministry. As Greear argues, “If we take the long view of ministry, growing and sending out disciples will take priority” (33).

And that is the goal of the book — to help the reader gain a long-term view of ministry, a view of ministry that God has given us, rather than one that we come up with. Greear says that his hope for this book is that it “helps you to see that your greatest kingdom potential lies not in your ability to gather and inspire your people at a weekly worship meeting, but in your capacity to equip them and send them out as seeds into the kingdom of God” (17).

“The question is not if we’re called to pour our lives out for the mission, only where and how” (47)

The Structure

So how does he help the reader see this? Honestly, this rubs against so much of modern-day church culture and growth strategy … so how does he convince the reader that this is biblical and the better strategy for every church to adopt?

After the introduction, he begins the book by laying the framework. He does so with a very helpful illustration, comparing the church to 3 different boats.

Many people, he says, see the church as a cruise liner. In this understanding, the church offers Christian luxuries to the whole family, catering to their needs and entertaining them. And if their church ever ceases to cater to an individual’s preferences, well then there are plenty of other cruise liners out there. This would be the model of many “mega-Churches.”

Others see the church more like a battleship. The church is made for the mission and fights for this mission with all its might. Now this is certainly better than the “cruise liner” model, but its problem is that it sees the church institution and staff as being the primary battle-fighters.

A better, model, Greear suggests, is that the church is like an aircraft carrier. Like battleships, aircraft carriers engage in battle, but in a different way. Aircraft carriers equip planes to carry the battle elsewhere. This is the way the church should function: equipping and sending (see pages 27-28).

Following the laying of the framework, Greear shares his own (painful) journey toward being a leader and a church that is primarily focused on sending, not gathering. This chapter was a very interesting, honest, and humble account of some of the things he saw in his own heart, and in the heart of his church, and how he went about correcting those things.

Following these two chapters are ten chapters with ten “plumb lines” that serve as directional markers for building the ministries of the Summit Church. He suggests that by adopting these ten “plumb lines,” and evaluating in light of them, your ministry can become one that is focused on sending and equipping rather than gathering and growing. Below are these Ten “Plumb Lines”

  1. The Gospel is not just the diving board, it is the pool
  2. Everyone is called
  3. The week is as important as the weekend
  4. A church is not a group of people gathered around a leader, but a leadership factory
  5. The church makes visible the invisible Christ
  6. The point of everything is to make disciples
  7. Every pastor is our missions pastor
  8. We seek to live multicultural lives, not just host multicultural events
  9. Risk is right
  10. When you’re sick of saying it, they’ve just heard it

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and found it quite helpful. I admit that my own heart gets sucked into thinking with the “gather and grow” mindset rather than the “equip and send.” Books like this are very helpful and needed correctives to these ways of thinking. I am very thankful for Greear’s ministry, his writing, and his honesty and humility to help pastors across the nation and the world learn from his mistakes and struggles in order to better equip, disciple, and send those in our churches out for the work of the ministry. I am confident that this book will stretch, challenge, and equip you to adopt this mindset as well.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Praying With Paul

Praying with PaulPrayer is that spiritual discipline in which most of us long to grow, but in which few of us feel adequate. It is the great (often-neglected) privilege of the Christian to communicate with the living God of the Universe. Why is it, then, that so many of us struggle in our prayer life? How can we grow in the depth, effectiveness, and spiritual vitality of our prayers?

One book that is a GREAT help in this arena is by D.A. Carson, titled Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. With the first edition of this book published over 20 years ago, Baker has recently released a new and updated second edition, reintroducing this wonderful book to a new generation of Christians.

“Where is our delight in praying? Where is our sense that we are meeting with the living God, that we are undertaking work that he has assigned, that we are interceding with genuine unction before the throne of grace? When was the last time we came away from a period of intercession feeling that, like Jacob or Moses, we had prevailed with God? How much of our praying is largely formulaic?” (xiv).

The book is a mixture of a little bit of practical advice combined with a much larger portion of meditations on some of Paul’s prayers. Carson says: “The chief purpose of this book, then, is to think through some of Paul’s prayers, so that we may align our prayer habits with his. We want to learn what to pray for, what arguments to use, what priorities we should adopt, what beliefs should shape our prayers, and much more” (xv).

In the book, Carson has 4 chapters focused on practical advice and general principles/wisdom  for prayer. These include the following:

  • Chapter 1 – Lessons from the School of Prayer
  • Chapter 4 – Praying for Others
  • Chapter 7 – Excuses for Not Praying
  • Chapter 9 – A Sovereign and Personal God

But the bulk of the book contains chapters consisting of meditations and principles drawn from Paul’s prayers recorded in Scripture. These include the following:

“Granted that most of us know some individuals who are remarkable prayer warriors, is it not nevertheless true that by and large we are better at organizing than agonizing? Better at administering than interceding? Better at fellowship than fasting? Better at entertainment than worship? Better at theological articulation than spiritual adoration? Better — God help us! — at preaching than praying?” (xiv).

As a book focused on meditating on the prayers of Paul, this book stands on very solid, authoritative ground — The Word of God. Where there is practical, personal reflections and advice, that is just that — advice. And there is definitely plenty of very good advice. But the strength of this book is that Carson stands on the authority of the Word of God, the authority of Paul’s prayers as recorded in Scripture. And as he meditates on these prayers, and draws principles and practices that should be present in each believer’s prayers, it is much more than the advice from a man, but is the example given from God.

As such, I would highly recommend this book to you. There are many very good books written on prayer, including 2 recent books that I have thoroughly enjoyed: Tim Keller – Prayer and Don Whitney – Praying the BibleEach of those have their place and are very good in what they are trying to accomplish. Right there along with those, I would add this book by Carson to my top recommended books on the topic of prayer. Especially if you are looking for an in-depth look at the example that Scripture itself gives for prayer, you need look no further.

Buy yourself a copy of this book today, meditate along with Carson on these passages, and you are sure to see an increase in the depth of your communication with the living God — in the depth of your prayers.

If you are interested, there is also a study guide to accompany the book in a small group format. You can check that out by clicking here.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Baker Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Daring Mission of William Tyndale

The Daring Mission of William TyndaleAs I hold my English Bible right now, it doesn’t seem that dangerous to me to do so. In fact, as I look around my office, I have multiple copies of Scripture, in various translations, in the English language. My guess is that the same is true for you. Who would think that they would be persecuted, hunted, and eventually killed for having an English copy of the Scriptures.

Well that is just what happened to the English Reformer, William Tyndale, as he sought to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of the English people. In his book on Tyndale, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, Steven Lawson chronicles the life and ministry of this man as he embarked on a daring mission — to translate the Scriptures from the Greek and Hebrew into the every-day language of the common people.

“The calling of God upon Tyndall’s heart became a burning passion to see commoners read God’s unadulterated Word. Unfortunately, most people have never heard of this man and his vast contribution has been greatly undervalued through the centuries” (164).

Who Was William Tyndale?

Often overshadowed by the much more popular Reformers such as Luther and Calvin, Tyndale was a giant of a man in bringing the Reformation to England. Known as “The Father of the English Bible,” William Tyndale did something in the early 1500s that no man had done before — translated the Bible into the English language from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Tyndale’s Bible was not the first English Bible, but it was the first to be translated from the Hebrew and Greek rather than the Latin Vulgate. As such, it was a monumental feat, and one that certainly did not come without its cost.

Throughout his task, Tyndale faced outright opposition from bishops and cardinals, was chased around Europe by officials sent by high nobles with a price on his head, was tricked and conned into friendships that eventually resulted in his death, and was labeled as a heretic of the worst sorts, with names such as “a hell-hound in the kennel of the devil,” “a new Judas,” and “an idolater and devil-worshipper” (18).

The leaders of the English Church and country sought to squash Tyndale’s mission with everything they had, yet to no avail. Tyndale was utterly convinced that the people of England needed the Word of God in a language they could read and understand, not just in the Latin of the nobles who could then “tell” them what the Word said. He gave his life to completing this mission, and God blessed it. Though Tyndale was martyred for his work, his translation of the New Testament from the Greek, and most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew, became the basis for the King James Version, and every subsequent English translation that we are blessed with today.

“We want again Tyndales to tenaciously face the insurmountable obstacles before them and overcome them with zealous resolve for the glory of God. We need Tyndales who translate the Bible into the languages of forgotten people groups around the world. We need Tyndales to proclaim the gospel through the written page in the face of imminent danger. We need Tyndales who passionately love the Word of God to fill every pulpit, every seminary, every Sunday School class, every lectern” (164-165).

The Book

In his book, Lawson does a wonderful job of giving the reader an in-depth, interesting, and exciting look at the life and work of William Tyndale. He addresses questions such as “What steps did this chief architect of the English Bible take in order to produce his magnificent translation from the original languages?” and “What challenges did he have to overcome in order to present this extraordinary gift to the English-speaking world?”

If you have not heard of William Tyndale, or even if you have but know very little of his life and his work, I would 100% heartily recommend this volume to you. You will walk away with a greater appreciation of the man William Tyndale, but more importantly, a greater appreciation for the price paid for you to hold that copy of the Bible in your native language. And what better gift could Tyndale give us than that?

In the words of Steven Lawson, “May there be a renewed commitment to the sufficiency and exclusivity of this bloodstained Book” (28).

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Trust publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.