Tag Archives: book review

Review of Church Inside Out

I’m very pleased to see that the Christian Chronicle has published a review of my Church Inside Out books. I’m especially grateful to Paula Harrington for her thoroughness in studying the material and writing her review.

Juan Antonio Monroy was the first to write a full review of the books. His review was written in Spanish for the website ProtestanteDigital.com. Unfortunately, a review in Spanish about a book in English has a very limited audience.

The Chronicle review is the first “real” review of any of my books. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

The review can be found here: https://christianchronicle.org/review-church-inside/
The book can be found here: https://www.21stcc.com/viewproduct.cfm/resultstable/tblItem/prodno/9780890989159/startrow/1
A link to the workbook is on that page.

Muscle and a Shovel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently did a quick read of the book Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank. Am I allowed to say that it is what I thought it was? Written in an autobiographical style, it’s intended to be an apologetic for traditional Church of Christ beliefs. As such, it functions pretty well.

I’m not really prepared to write a review. I may do so in the future. John Mark Hicks has written an excellent review which is available in electronic format for the Kindle. He also posted a summary of that review on his personal blog, presenting it in three parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
I’d highly recommend John Mark’s review to anyone who has read the book and even to those who haven’t.

In lieu of a review, let me share some thoughts:

    • I’ll start with the biggest issue I have: Jesus is a minor character, at best, in this book. If I want to talk to people about the gospel and don’t center that talk around Jesus, something is seriously wrong. This book isn’t about bringing people to Jesus. It’s about bringing them to a certain church.
    • The most shocking thing I read was the part where Randal rejected the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. “It’s one of the greatest false teachings of modern-day religion.” (p.108) That’s when I realized that any gospel presented would not be the gospel of Jesus. I recognize that was a way of attacking a commonly held evangelical idea, but Randal’s reasoning was really sad. “A personal relationship implies that Jesus is not in Heaven because He would have to be here, in the flesh, for you to have a personal relationship with Him.” (ibid) Really? So all that “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” was just a ruse? Talk of where two or more are gathered, I am there? Jesus lives in the believer, not just in Heaven. He is inside of us… how much more personal can you get?
      Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) That’s the part that Randal missed, that he never mentioned. Know God. Know Jesus. Have a personal relationship with them. That’s eternal life.

  • I’m thrilled with the reports of people coming to the Lord after reading this book. I don’t want my opinions of this book to take away from that in any way.
  • I’m glad for Michael that he found the Lord and desires to help others do the same.
  • In the book itself, I love the example of Randal, his willingness to speak about his faith to others. Some of his attitudes seem less than ideal, but I can say that about just about anyone.
  • The book itself is fairly readable. Some disagree, but I think the story flows fairly naturally. Much of what is written is hard to believe, but it’s not easy to argue with someone’s personal story.
  • Those reading the book need to recognize that Shank’s description of believers in Christ outside of the Church of Christ is not typical of such believers. You would be hard pressed to find a trained Baptist minister that asserts that the Baptist church began with John the Baptist, for example.
  • The book is filled with proof texts to support Randal’s arguments and accusations toward other groups that their beliefs are based on proof texts. I agree with many things that Randal says; others just can’t be supported from Scripture.

There’s a lot more to be said. I should point out, though, that we’re seeing an amazing disconnect in our brotherhood. There are many who think Muscle and a Shovel deserves a place on their bookshelf right next to the New Testament. There’s another group that thinks it deserves a place at the county landfill. Interestingly enough, many times those two groups co-exist within a single congregation.

If you read Shank’s book, I hope you’ll read Hicks’ review as well, just to have a better understanding of what you’ve read.

Book Review: The Derision of Heaven

derision coverI was provided with a review copy (ebook) of the book The Derision of Heaven by Michael Whitworth. I was not asked to provide a positive review, merely an objective one.

Whitworth’s book is a study of the biblical book of Daniel, falling somewhere between scholarly commentary and popular devotional. With 425 endnotes, the documentation is there to support a scholarly study, yet Whitworth has tried to make the book accessible to the average reader.

Each of the ten chapters is divided into sections of textual study followed by a final section of “talking points.” The talking points focus on practical application, though there is plenty of application throughout the book.

Each of the first nine chapters covers one chapter of Daniel, then the last three chapters are studied as one section. Whitworth admits being more comfortable with the narrative sections of the book than he is with the visionary sections, and that shows in the writing. Still, he does a good job of taking both the familiar (stories like the lions’ den and the fiery furnace) and the unfamiliar (the prophetic sections) and presenting them in a way that everyone can read them profitably.

Overall, it’s an excellent work, one to be commended to the casual Bible reader and the serious student alike. The flaws I noticed were minor. There were a couple of places were I felt the editor could have done a better job; an unclear antecedent in the Q&A section makes it sound like the book of Daniel was written during Hitler’s lifetime.

The other distracting factor for me was the author’s habit of inserting humorous comments at random times. (Ironically, that’s something I’m often guilty of)

As I said, those are minor flaws. I highly recommend The Derision of Heaven to anyone interested in learning more about the book of Daniel.

The following information is being presented as a service to my readers. I receive no compensation for this:

The author is offering some giveaways today, Tuesday, September 3, to anyone who purchases the book. You can visit his blog for details. Here’s the information that was sent to me:

My book “The Derision of Heaven: A Guide to Daniel” is nearing its OFFICIAL release date of September 3rd. I want to personally thank you for getting the word out about it. On Sept. 3, I will be encouraging folks to buy the book from Amazon.com or a Christian bookstore. If they email me their receipt, I’ll enter them into a contest to win an iPad Mini 16GB WiFi. The more books purchased, the more chances you will receive to win. But these purchases have to come on Sept. 3. There is a very strong chance this book could make the Amazon Bestseller list. If that happens, it would be exposed to a much larger audience than I could ever give it. That is important because I believe in this book’s message; more than a guide to Daniel, it is an urgent message for Christians engaged in a bitter culture war. The church needs to be studying Daniel RIGHT NOW!

That’s why I need your help. Tell your friends about the book and encourage them to purchase a copy on Sept. 3. Also, I hope you will consider buying copies on Sept. 3 (it’s never too late to begin your Christmas shopping!). Share the news via social media. Talk to members of your congregation about purchasing this book. Along with the iPad Mini, I’ll be giving away other prizes, such as an ESV Study Bible and 20 SIGNED copies of my next book, “Living & Longing for the Lord.” You will get an extra chance at these prizes every time you share the news on social media.

All the details will be on my blog on Sept. 3. Bookmark start2finishblog.com and set a reminder to check it out on Tuesday, Sept. 3.


Juan Antonio Monroy: An Autobiography

Several months ago, I wrote a bit about Juan Antonio Monroy. I mentioned at that time that his autobiography hadn’t officially been released. There still hasn’t been much fanfare, but it is out publicly. You can order it from the Herald of Truth website or pick it up anywhere ACU Press books are sold.

Having traveled with Juan, I hear his voice as I read the book. It’s quintessential Juan: amazing stories, almost unbelievable ones, as well as a story or two that will offend some sensitivities. Juan even says a time or two: “Christians in America won’t understand this.” He’s not writing a story to convince anyone of anything. It’s not a researched history book. These are Juan’s memoirs.

I’d never heard a lot of these stories: the time Juan spent in prison because of his faith, his address to the first meeting of Amnesty International, his expulsion from Morocco, the details of his meeting with the king of Spain. I can’t imagine anyone not being fascinated by the stories Juan has to tell.

Juan is a strong-willed man and comes across as arrogant to some. I know, however, that a man of lesser will wouldn’t have been able to do much that Juan has done.

In addition to the text, there are some great photos in the book as well. (Too bad we didn’t get any pictures of the translator… she’s quite good looking!)

An author responds

Two weeks ago, I reviewed the book Deceiving Winds. After the review came out, author Bruce Morton contacted me, expressing his view that I had seriously misunderstood his book. I extended to him the invitation to present his case. Here’s what Bruce wrote:

I appreciate Tim taking time with Deceiving Winds. We have had a positive and enjoyable chat since this review was published, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate Tim for allowing me to comment regarding his review.

First, I hope Tim reconsiders the statement he initially makes in the review: “He has taken some issues that he feels deeply about and made them the primary concerns of these letters.” And that is the “loosing his way” exegetically that Tim suggests I am guilty of and that mars the book.

I am not sure that Tim’s suggestion gets at all that Deceiving Winds is about. Indeed, he is referencing the content of six of the seventeen chapters and appendices of the book when he says I primarily focus on “feminism and instrumental music.” I hope he will take a further look and note that most of the book has nothing to do with “feminism and instrumental music.” Other subjects that are given attention are the resurrection of Jesus, Christian hope, adoption by God, materialism, characteristics of Christian identity, living as children of light, raising children, elders, the reality of spiritual darkness and a focus on reading and speaking the Word of God in a time when the Word is getting lost. So, I am not convinced that I suggest that “feminism and instrumental music” represent the primary concerns of Paul’s letters to Roman Asia and its capital city. However, the subjects of song and gender roles do get Paul’s attention in the first century – just as they get ours 1950 years later.

Tim also suggests that I stumble by taking an “occasional” teaching and applying it in our day. The subject of application is particularly thorny – since the topics of music and gender roles carry with them much emotion. I hope Tim and others who choose to read the book will look closely at the parallelisms in Ephesians 4:17-5:21. Paul’s parallelisms “bring together” the background and the application for our day. All that Paul writes about music (Ephesians 5:18-21) parallels his statement in Ephesians 5:11. Paul is guiding the Ephesians to “expose darkness” by their unified song. Further, I continue to believe quotes of others within the section are justified – since their focus is on song (cf. Stephen Guthrie). While Guthrie should have gone further, what he does say is excellent. He calls Christians to the importance of song in a time when much of a younger generation is more comfortable with listening to music than singing. That “concert mentality” is hindering the growth of faith.

Finally, I will note that Deceiving Winds is not suggesting that “Progressive” thought within churches of Christ is inseparable with the “emerging church movement.” Indeed, I can think of numerous topics where the two paths diverge. However, at points they do intersect. I will leave readers of the book to take a look at specifics here.

Thank you for considering the comments.