Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ by Robert H. Stein (IVP Academic, 2017, $27)
Review by Andrew J.W. Smith
From a former Southern Seminary New Testament and hermeneutics professor comes this new paperback version of his 1996 survey of the life of Jesus Christ, Jesus the Messiah. Robert H. Stein, currently senior professor emeritus of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, has spent his life studying the life of Jesus and presents a volume that helpfully cuts through some of the “historical Jesus” questions and did-miracles-really-happen distractions. Stein writes unapologetically from the perspective of a believing Christian, arguing that the burden of proof lies on the skeptic to disprove the Gospels’ historicity.
The book both discusses Jesus’ biographical details — dating events during his life, the chronological limitations inherent in the genre, historiographical matters — along with Jesus’ essential teachings. It provides a helpful survey of the life and message of Jesus, being technical where necessary but still remaining accessible to the average lay reader.
Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken (Crossway, 2017, $15.99)
Review By RuthAnne Irvin
Being human can be awkward. But not only can being human be awkward, but being a Christian in community with others is also sometimes uncomfortable. Brett McCracken addresses the elephant in the room when it comes to church and community in his new book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.
In a conversational tone, McCracken, senior editor for The Gospel Coalition, writes about what most of us often wonder: how to participate in Christian community well. His premise of the book is that community among believers, who are also sinners, will not be void of awkward or uncomfortable aspects, like loving one’s neighbor, believing in the exclusivity of Christ, and the uncomfortable aspects of the Christian mission to bring unsaved into the fold.
In two parts, McCracken explores various aspects of how the church often thinks incorrectly about what community looks like, remembering the church is a collection of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
“A true gospel community,” he writes, “is not about convenience and comfort and chai lattes in the vestibule. It’s about pushing each other forward in holiness and striving together for the kingdom, joining along in the ongoing work of the Spirit in this world.”
Prayers of the Saints by Sovereign Grace Music (Sovereign Grace Music, 2017, $7.99 on iTunes)
Review by Matt Damico
Louisville-based Sovereign Grace Music recently added to their lengthy discography with the release of their live album, Prayers of the Saints.
This album, produced by Nathan Nockels, weds an updated sound – big drums, soaring electric guitar, and occasional synthesizer – to the typical trustworthy lyrics and congregationally friendly melodies that have long marked Sovereign Grace’s albums.
The project has 15 songs, and it won’t be long before many of them find a place in repertoire of local churches. A few of the features are a re-done “All Creatures of Our God and King,” with two new verses, and the simple, beautiful, singable hymn, “O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer.” For churches looking to add a fuller, more uptempo song, “All Praise to Him” fits the bill.
There aren’t many weak links on the track list. If you like to sing along with the music you listen to, you’ll love this album.
Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright (B&H Publishing Group, 2016, $12.99)
Review by Caleb T. Shaw
Two-time SBTS graduate and former dean of Boyce College Jimmy Scroggins, along with co-author Steve Wright, bring theology and application together in their new book Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations. This book focuses on how every Christian can take advantage of ordinary moments to share the gospel using the “3 Circles” method that Scroggins developed. Purposefully written for Christians at any stage, Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations argues that the church is to be a multiplying movement.
“In the book of Acts, we see that the movement of the Holy Spirit spread like wildfire in the ancient world,” they write. “Jesus commissioned the apostles, and within weeks there were already more than eight thousand new believers! Everybody was telling everybody. Churches were being planted left and right.
“The apostles [had] the power of the Holy Spirit and the things they had seen and heard. Our challenge is to take what we have seen and heard about Jesus and tell everybody—to multiply disciples by the thousand and millions?”
The “3 Circles” method of sharing the gospel is simple. All it takes to share the gospel is three circles and three arrows connecting them. The tool shows how sin causes people to depart from God’s design for humanity, which leads them into brokenness. But God has provided a way for everyone to no longer be broken in his eyes through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. A person must respond to this gospel in repentance and belief. Finally, people begin to recover and pursue God’s design for humanity as Jesus works in them.
“The 3 Circles is a tool that works in our missional context,” they write. “People in our broken world are looking for answers, and God has equipped us to give them.”
In Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations, Scroggins and Wright provide a helpful tool that any Christian could use to become a more effective multiplying disciple.