Worldviews: A Christian Response to Religious Pluralism
Anthony J. Steinbronn, Concordia Publishing House, 2007, ISBN 0758605986, 270 pages, $16.99, softcover.
Postmodern philosophy advocates the belief that all religions have equal merit. What is best for the individual is the best religion or philosophy for that person. Anthony J. Steinbronn examines that idea and compares these religious worldviews with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The major worldviews (besides Christianity and Judaism) are Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and tribalism. Each in its own way presents a way of "salvation" through self-effort. Each teaches that the individual must work or do or be pleasing to his god or philosophy if he is to attain salvation. Salvation in these worldviews does not resemble the salvation of Christianity.
Steinbronn examines several areas of universal beliefs and practices. His first area is that of external reality or their belief system. One can study this chapter for a synopsis of these five worldviews. Although all are strikingly different, they have a common thread running through them: humanity constantly searches how to be at peace with self and an external power.
Next, the author looks at the orientation of man toward his religion or philosophy. How can one live in the world and obtain some satisfaction as one interacts with others. The ultimate goal of these five worldviews is to live and act in such a way that the believer's ultimate reality will give final satisfaction. None of these worldviews recognizes sin in the biblical sense, but each strives through self-effort to make peace with his god or philosophy.
The author pleads with his readers to "be good communicators, always being grounded in the Word of God and seeking to construct relevant and meaningful bridges into the hearts and minds of the regenerate and the lost" (p. 226).
Type: Evangelism Strategy
Take: Highly Recommended
Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden of Eden to the New Creation
Allen P. Ross, Kregel Academic & Professional, 2006, ISBN 0825435781, 591 pages, $35.99, hardcover.
Early in his presentation, the author gives his definition of worship: "True worship is the celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the sovereign and triune God, by means of the reverent adoration and spontaneous praise of God's nature and works, the expressed commitment of trust and obedience to the covenant responsibilities, and the memorial reenactment of entering into covenant through ritual acts, all with the confident anticipation of the fulfillment of the covenant promises of glory" (pp. 67-68). Ross traces worship from the Garden of Eden through worship in the early church. True worship recognizes the holiness and glory of God. Even before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve encountered God in the cool of the Garden and fellowshipped with Him.
The Lord (Yahweh) God appeared to Abraham when he was a pagan. In faith Abraham believed that God was who He said He was. Abraham worshiped God in his heart; he did not have a complex revealed ritual. We do not know precisely how Abraham knew he should offer animal sacrifices. Perhaps he harked back to Abel's sacrifice from his flocks. Abraham's ultimate sacrifice, however, was his beloved son Isaac. His faith-not his works-gained him the favor of God.
It pleased the Lord to reveal to Moses the Levitical system of worship. The Tabernacle, and later the Temple, pictured the way humanity could approach a righteous and holy God. These rituals, which did not bring lasting peace, were only a picture of the true sacrifice for sin, the Lord Jesus Christ.
After Christ's ascension into heaven, the early disciples for a while continued to worship in the Temple and in the synagogues. Before long Jews and Gentiles alike met in homes and in the open to worship the living Christ. They served the living Christ by proclaiming forgiveness of sin through the work of Christ on the cross.
Finally, in eternity all of God's own will worship Him. Both angels and the redeemed will sing "holy, holy, holy" around His throne. We will love, adore, and worship Him who was, and is, and is to come.
Believers Church Bible Commentary: Psalms
James H. Waltner, Herald Press, 2006, ISBN 0836193377, 831 pages, $34.99, softcover.
The Psalms grew out of the experiences of God's people in Old Testament days. David and other writers wrote psalms of praise, psalms of the Messiah, historical psalms, prophetic psalms, psalms of creation, and many more. New Testament writers quoted liberally from the psalms and proclaimed their fulfillment in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Waltner previews each of the 150 psalms, followed by an outline of the psalm. He then gives a brief exposition of each. The author then suggests an application for the individual or church use. Throughout the discussion of the various psalms, Waltner points out quotations and applications by New Testament writers.
At the end of his exposition of the 150 psalms, the author presents more than twenty essays on terms used in the psalms. Noteworthy are the essays on the Anointed One, imprecation, penitential psalms, selah, Sheol, and Zion.
Type: Biblical exposition
Invitation to Biblical Preaching: Proclaiming Truth with Clarity and Relevance
Donald R. Sunukjan, 2007, Kregel, ISBN 978-0-8254-3666-6, 368 pages, $29.99, hardcover.
All pastors should agree that the core of their ministry is faithfully preaching the Word of God. Many, however, wish there was an easier way to accomplish that than the hours of careful preparation before each Sunday's message. In Invitation to Biblical Preaching, Donald R. Sunukjan reaffirms the truth that the purest understanding of God's Word (and thereby the best sermons) only comes through diligent study and prayer.
Far from a rebuke of those unwilling to put in the effort, the book is a thorough examination of the process of studying the Scriptures and developing sermons. Sunukjian carefully provides pastors and teachers with the tools they need to delve into the meaning of a passage. He presents his message in chapters designed to serve as an open framework that fits many different styles and personalities, rather than a simplistic, formulaic approach. Most importantly, however, is the author's stance on the Word-he reminds us that all styles, techniques, and attempts to be "relevant" come second to the preeminence of God's message. The pastor, he says, should begin each message by asking "What is God saying [in this passage]?" If that question isn't answered faithfully, then the rest of the sermon is worthless.
The ultimate purpose of this book is to coach pastors in the blessed effort of true biblical preaching-what Sunukjian calls "the hardest and best thing" they will ever do. As he exhorts pastors in the close of his book, "Preach accurately, clearly, relevantly, and energetically. And when you are finished, each heart will whisper, Look at what God has said to us!'"
Type: Sermon Preparation
Take: Highly Recommended