Book Review: A Practical Guide to Culture

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's WorldA Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is geared toward parents, pastors, and youth leaders but could also be read by teens themselves. The authors present the challenges that Christians face in today’s culture and provide practical solutions for facing these. We all have a worldview and often the culture we live in affects that worldview. As Christians our worldview is to be based on the truth of Scripture. When much of the culture we live in flies in the face of that truth, it becomes a challenge to navigate. Teens today especially face these challenges and we need to help equip them properly to know the truth and defend it.
While this book is geared toward those who parent and mentor teens, it could also be used as a small group study amongst teens to help them learn tools for facing some of the most common issues in today’s culture – homosexuality, transgenderism, a hook-up culture, addiction, etc. The authors take us through these key issues and provide answers to the lies that the culture tells us about our sexual identity, relativism, etc. Each chapter in the book ends with further resources on that topic as well as discussion questions to talk through.
I would highly recommend this book as a resource for parents of teens to read, along with youth ministry leaders. We cannot hide our heads in the sand regarding these issues in the culture but need to challenge them with the truth and grace of the gospel. This book is a quick, easy read that provides tools to deal with these issues as well as pointing to further resources for deeper study.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher David Cook in exchange for my review.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, if you weren’t already convicted by how much time you spend on your smartphone, you will be after reading this book! The pros and cons of technology are discussed, particularly when it comes to our use of social media. The author asks some hard-hitting questions and talks about reasons we use our smartphones, things such as distraction and to avoid responsibility, for diversion, for affirmation and community.
“The question of this book is simple: What is the best use of my smartphone in the flourishing of my life? To that end, my aim is to avoid both extremes…” The author gives both downsides and upsides to our use of smartphones. It appears the intent of the book is to open our eyes to why we are using them and for what purposes. We need to be intentional in the decisions we make and the author reminds us that we will answer to God for our words and deeds. He does not tell us we shouldn’t use social media or smartphones, but rather to gauge our use and motivations for use and to be wise with our time and resources. “Before you text, tweet, or publish digital art online, honestly ask yourself: Will this ultimately glorify me or God?”
In a world that speeds by us, this book is a good reminder of what matters and to remember what is truly important. Are we living life for God’s purposes or our own?

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur

Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth
The long-awaited, much-anticipated systematic theology by John MacArthur is finally here. Though there are several areas where I disagree with MacArthur theologically, he is a sound Bible teacher and pastor who has remained faithful to the Word of God through the many years of his ministry.

However, as I tried to read this theology book I found myself getting frustrated with the tone and manner in which it is written. The view of the author is put forth as the correct view, matter-of-factly, as if no other view has any validity. Contrary to Grudem’s theology book, which gives the different views within orthodox Christianity, MacArthur’s theology comes across as being the only correct view. I have noticed in past messages by MacArthur that he does not fairly represent opposing views but often uses straw-man arguments. It may well be that he doesn’t understand the opposing view or really thinks that is their view. But his arguments fall flat because he is not accurately teaching what the opposing view actually believes, only a caricature of what he thinks they believe.

I could not continue reading this book with him only giving his view and teaching it as if it is the only way to read and understand the Bible. Many well-respected scholars and theologians down through the centuries would not agree with MacArthur’s interpretations. His view is not the only correct, biblical view. When it comes to salvation and the doctrines that matter (primary issues), we would agree. But on secondary issues, he comes across as his way being correct without any alternative views being allowed for. While I don’t think he actually feels that way, as he has partnered with others such as Sproul, it smacks that way in his book.

For those who hold similar views to MacArthur in secondary issues, you will likely love this book. It is written in an easy-to-read and normal MacArthur manner. But if you believe differently on some of these issues (such as covenant theology, amillenialism, etc.), you may have a hard time stomaching what he writes. Perhaps I may go back and try to finish it in the future, but with so many books out there that I want to read, the rest of this one is going to remain unread for now.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond

Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented AgeChasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age by Erik Raymond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Discontentment seems to be an American or Western culture issue. With the rise of materialism and wealth, dissatisfaction has also grown. With so much available to us, we still struggle with being discontent with all that we have. There is a tendency to want “just a little bit more.” In this book, the author addresses this problem from a Biblical perspective.
This was a convicting book! It is so easy to fall into the sin of discontentment. We tend to worship the created things instead of the Creator. And this causes us to not be content with what we have or our current circumstances.
One of the chapters that stood out to me was the one on self-denial. In the Gospels, Jesus calls us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him. When we deny ourselves, it is much easier to be content. Our focus is on serving God and others, rather than our own desires.
I would definitely recommend this book to challenge you in your Christian walk. It’s a quick, short read that packs a punch!

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway through Netgalley.com in exchange for my review.

Finding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback

Finding God in My LonelinessFinding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The path out of loneliness begins by letting go of all our attempts to make life work on our own terms. It’s about taking up our cross and following Jesus.”
This book is not a “quick-fix” help to dealing with loneliness. Rather it goes to the heart of the matter, what is behind our loneliness, and the fact that we are not made for this world and loneliness will exist until the new heavens and new earth are ushered in. Having dealt personally with loneliness, the author can relate to this very human emotion that we all deal with at some point in our lives. Different chapters deal with different reasons for why we suffer with loneliness – for being different, in a difficult marriage, during grief, and in singleness. She talks about the wrong ways to deal with loneliness and points us back to Christ as the One we must turn to. This doesn’t mean the loneliness will go away, but He is with us during it. He also has borne our griefs and sorrows (see Isaiah 53). Each chapter ends with discussion questions, so this book could be used in a small group study or book club.
While not an in-depth look at this topic, this book can be an encouragement to those going through loneliness and also help us to realize that we are not alone in dealing with this issue.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway through Netgalley.com in exchange for my review.

Parenting by Paul Tripp

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your FamilyParenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Once again Paul Tripp hits it out of the park! This book has similar principles to his brother Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart. It all points back to the heart. In raising and disciplining children, we are to not just focus on behavior change but heart change. Not that we are able to change a child’s heart (only God can do that), but we look beyond the behavior to see the heart of what is causing the behavior.

This book outlines 14 principles to keep in mind in the midst of parenting. I am not a parent myself, but have several close friends that are and they are in the trenches. Parenting is unbelievably hard and incredibly selfless. The first principle in the book points to this: “Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.” Parenting is not meant to be done on our own, in our own wisdom and strength. God calls us to be parents with His help. He will not call us to do something that He doesn’t also help us to accomplish. “God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you.”

I found this book encouraging, yet not holding back any punches. Since I’m not a parent, I can’t actually put these principles into practice for myself with my own children. But I would like to encourage parents to read this book and use it as a tool. We have been given mercy by God as Christians that we can now pour out on others, especially our own families. I think parents will find this book to be worthwhile and a help as they pour their lives into their kids and teach them about God.

Other quotes:
“There is nothing more important to consistent, faithful, patient, loving, and effective parenting than to understand what God has given you in the grace of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“God calls unable people to do important things because ultimately what he’s working on is not your immediate success, but that you would come to know him, to love him, to rest in his grace, and to live for his glory.”

“What you’re always dealing with is the need for heart change, and we simply have no power at all to change another person’s heart.”

“As a parent you’re not dealing just with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior.”

“Your children don’t so much need character management as they need worship realignment. They don’t first have a character problem; they have a worship problem that produces a character problem.”

“You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.”

“So your hope as a parent is not found in your power, your wisdom, your character, your experience, or your success, but in this one thing alone: the presence of your Lord.”

“Parenting is about being God’s ambassadors in the lives of our children. It is about faithfully representing his message, his methods, and his character to our children.”

*I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.