Book Reviews

Warren Wiersbe. On Being a Leader for God.
Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. 137 pages.
Reviewed by David Lingle.

 

Wiersbe is consistently worth reading and this short book is no exception. Wiersbe considers this the sequel and companion to his previous book On Being a Servant of God.

Wiersbe maintains that “Christian leaders are people who, by faith, willingly use their character, abilities, authority, and opportunities to serve others and to help them reach their fullest potential, to their benefit, the benefit of the organization, and the glory of God,” p. 16. It is probably safe to say that everyone is a leader in some sphere, and will therefore benefit from a careful reading of this book. The content of the book is organized around this definition of leadership. Wiersbe’s definition is not only biblically grounded but is also informed by his many years of ministry.

This is a book of general principles and wisdom about leadership, not a nuts and bolts “how to” kind of a book. If you are in a position of leadership, you will more likely fill in the “how to” details effectively if you get the big picture issues right. Wiersbe on leadership will help you get the big picture issues right.

If you have read very many books on leadership, especially those that approach the subject from a thoroughly biblical perspective, you will not likely find much new material here. However, it is presented in Wiersbe’s practical, helpful and readable style. I think it would be good for anyone in a position of leadership (pastor’s, CEOs, teachers, coaches, fathers, deacons, etc.) to read one good book on leadership a year, or at least every other year. This is one of the books I would consider to be worth your time. I am glad I read it. The Lord used it to remind me of several important truths I need to work on remembering and practicing.

Whatever kind of leadership position you find yourself in, you should have a list of books that you want to read sometime in the near future. Take a book with you everywhere you go so that you can redeem the time waiting for the kids after school, or while your spouse finishes the shopping, while taking the bus or train, waiting in line at the DMV, or whatever. Include this little book by Wiersbe on your list of books to read in the near future.

 

Joel R. Beeke & James A. La Belle. Living Zealously.
Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012. 133 pages.
Reviewed by Mark Hanson

 

In a day when immediacy and ease are such commonplace elements of everyday life the long work of deep contemplation often becomes a difficult and much neglected task. While many contemporary voices address the need for deeper introspection, one might ask if the Puritans have anything to share with the modern reader as it relates to a deep examination of internal motivations for and towards God. Living Zealously attempts to answer that very question.

Living Zealously strives to help the reader “understand what Christian zeal is, and encourage [the reader] to be consumed with it for the glory of God, His church, and His word” (page 5). This is the second title—the first, Living by God’s Promises, was also co-authored by the same men—in the Deepen Your Christian Life series which focuses on gathering various Puritan writings on somewhat overlooked subjects and combining them in more contemporary language for today’s readers.

Dr. Joel Beeke holds a Ph.D. in Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology and serves as the President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and also pastors the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rev. James La Belle holds an M.Div. and currently serves as the Pastor of Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. With both authors drawing on their formal theological training and the practical experience of pastoring, the tone of the book carries a very pastoral feel that is relevant to anyone church member. Yet, as good pastors are wont to do, they urge the reader towards a deeper understanding through one’s own personal application of Scripture.

This is accomplished in 133 pages as the book consists of only six short chapters, roughly twenty pages apiece; each with a focused topic relating to zeal: 1) The Nature and Marks…, 2) The Necessity and Motives…, 3) The Regula­tion…, 4) The Objects…, 5) The Outworking…, and 6) The Means of Christian Zeal. Each chapter has a similar feel as the authors highlight Puritan writings related to the particular emphasis of the chapter and then compare that with Scripture to show that while the topic of zeal is not often the main point of God’s Word it is a common thread that runs through its foundation.

With a quick glance at the chapter titles one might be most curious as to what the “Regulation of Christian Zeal” and the “Objects of Christian Zeal” might pertain to. While every chapter lends itself to a deeper understand of Scripture regarding the application of zeal, these two seem to initially place an unusual emphasis on works since most religious groups place a greater importance on “regulating” the “objects” of their service as the key indicator of one’s devotion and ultimately their salvation. Yet it is in these two chapters that the Puritan’s love for God as well as their thorough knowledge of Scripture comes shining through.

Proper understanding of the need for the regulation of Christian zeal is captured in a quotation by John Evans (1680–1730). “It is fit to be observed, that we read in scripture of a bad zeal more frequently . . . than of a good one. . . . [This] should make us sensible, how highly necessary it is, that a strict caution and a very careful regulation should attend our zeal” (52). This then is paired with the accounts of David’s census (2 Sam 24:3–4) and Hezekiah’s display of the temple treasures (2 Kings 20:12–15) where good intentions were in reality examples of poorly regulated zeal demonstrating the need for it to be planned properly.

The book does an excellent job of drawing out the heart of the matter of being a zealous Christian as it moves from regulation of zeal to the objects of zeal. This chapter in particular drives home Maranatha’s mission (Eph 1:12) “to be to the praise of his glory” as a quotation by Samuel Ward (1577–1640) states that Christian zeal “is a spiritual heat wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Ghost, improving the good affections of love, joy, hope . . . for the best service and furtherance of God’s glory, [together] with . . . his word, his house, his saints, and salvation of souls” (76). The authors very clearly articulate that “zeal has no more ultimate intent than to bring glory to God” (74) which makes God our primary object of zeal in our Christian living. Because the topic is about the nature of our interaction with God, the book is packed with challenges for personal growth in sanctification on nearly every page.

One relatively minor critique with the book is the order of the chapters. The topic of the object of zeal covered in chapter four really is the impetus for having any zeal at all, and it could logically be seen to be placed as the first chapter since it serves as the foundation for the rest of the book. In spite of this, the chapters naturally flow from the broader philosophical definitions into the Biblical foundation and then conclude with the practical outworking.

For further reflection and study every chapter concludes with ten study questions which would fit well whether used as a personal workbook, a Sunday School class, or small group discussion. Preceding the first chapter is a short biographical section containing information about the puritan authors whose writings are examined in the book. Additionally, a short bibliography contains suggestions for continued reading from both Puritan and contemporary authors on the topic of zeal.

Beeke and La Belle aptly glean from the diligent and disciplined effort put forth by the Puritans, clearly demonstrating that their writings are still relevant in helping comprehend Scripture as it relates to living as a zealous Christian today.

 

Randy Leedy. Love Not the World: Winning the War against Worldliness.
Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 2012. 144 pages.
Reviewed by Larry Oats.

 

This work was written specifically to fundamentalists with two goals in mind: to be a “biblical theology of the world and worldliness” (5) and to develop a contemporary application for the reader (7).

Part One of the book is “Defining the World.” Leedy begins with an Old Testament definition of “world.” While the term appears frequently in the Old Testament, Leedy notes that “world” generally refers to the created world. Instead of “world,” he suggests that the terms “Gentiles” (or “nations”) and “peoples” are the Old Testament terms for “world” in the sense of the lost, those who are estranged from God. Although acknowledging that the Old Testament does not particularly develop the theme of “worldliness,” it does demonstrate the narrowing of God’s choice of a people for himself to a specific family and then nation. The Old Testament also demonstrates what happens to the nations who oppose God’s righteousness and God’s people, as well as what happens when God’s own people, the nation of Israel, fail to obey. This is particularly evident in the Old Testament as Israel sought frequently to be like the nations around them, both politically and especially religiously.

Leedy then moves to a New Testament definition of “world” and “worldliness.” He notes that there are similar­ities between the testaments: the Gentile nations are still present in the New Testament and still a source of ungodliness; salvation is brought to the nations through the Messiah; God’s people need to bring light to the Gentiles in darkness.

There is an expansion in the New Testament, however. The New Testament shifts terms from “nations” to “world.” Israel had a national identity, and “nations” fit well. The church does not have a national identity, so there is no separation from “nations” per se. The freedom of Gentiles to join the church without first becoming Jews was difficult for the early Jewish church to understand. While Peter was the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul was the missionary whose focus was Gentilic.

Leedy examines kosmos (“world”) and aion (“age”), demonstrating the similarities and differences between the two terms, focusing primarily on the moral usages of the terms. Leedy also notes that the world is antagonistic to Christians because of the Satanic foundations to the world. As the “god of this age” he blinds and hardens people to the Gospel. Paul contrasted the “spirit of this world” with the “spirit of God.” There is a dichotomy between the divine nature and the fallen human nature.

Leedy then shifts his attention from definitions to discernment (“Discerning the World”). This section is based on four summary facts: 1) the world exists, 2) the world is all around us and, in our fallen flesh, within us, 3) the Father has rescued us from this world, 4) our Father commands us not to imitate the world. The remainder of this section focuses on Ephesians 4:17-5:21, Titus 2-3, 1 Peter 2:11-18, 1 Peter 4:3-5, and Matthew 6.

The remainder of the book focuses on the application of biblical principles concerning the “world.” Chapter 4 centers its attention on issues in the culture that are not explicitly addressed in Scripture. Leedy does not deal with specific activities, but focuses on the means of applying biblical principles. Chapter 5 centers its attention on how to develop principles concerning worldliness. How do we transfer the Bible’s teachings directly to our culture? How do we narrow the Bible’s generalities to our culture’s specifics? How do we expand the Bible’s specifics to related issues in our culture? How do we translate the Bible’s specifics to our culture’s specifics?

Whether you agree with Leedy’s conclusions or not, grappling with his approach will aid anyone in their struggle with the world and will especially help pastors as they teach their people the necessity of a godly life.