Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

The Common Definition

If you were to describe a hero, what words would you use? Courage, conviction, passion, strength, selflessness—these character traits and others like them are probably the ideas that quickly spring to mind. In our culture (and most others), we think of heroes as individuals who distinguish themselves from all the average joes of the world through their extraordinary lives and reputations.

In his new book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, John MacArthur provides a completely different perspective on what it takes to be a true hero in this life. He says, “The greatest heroes are those who are the human means God uses to change people forever—for their good and His glory. And these true heroes who make an eternal impact are invariably the most unexpected and ordinary people—God makes unlikely heroes.”

The Unqualified Candidates

Twelve Unlikely Heroes follows MacArthur’s two previous titles, Twelve Ordinary Men and Twelve Extraordinary Women, as the newest addition to his popular series of books focusing on the lives and legacies of biblical characters. In his latest book, MacArthur features the biographies of both familiar and lesser known names in Scripture—Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James (brother of Jesus), and Mark and Onesimus.

As MacArthur expounds on the biblical accounts of these individuals, he makes it clear that on their own, none of them is actually worthy of being called a hero. In the end, there would be nothing notable about the lives of these men and women, if not for the God they served.

The Ultimate Hero

MacArthur recently explained the overriding theme of Twelve Unlikely Heroes:

In truth, God is the real hero of every story. He relished choosing and using the most unlikely people to make spiritual impacts far beyond their own imagination or inherent usefulness. These aren’t lessons about human potential, positive thinking, or how to do the miraculous; they’re about how God, in His providence, deals in the circumstances of lives to accomplish His purpose. They show how God can order the affairs of ordinary people—the flawed, weak, and faltering—for His own significant spiritual outcomes.

My Humble Opinion

I greatly enjoyed reading Twelve Unlikely Heroes and found myself repeatedly thinking, “I never knew that!” In this book, MacArthur not only provides the reader with skillful explanations of the Scriptures, but he also sheds light on the text by sharing numerous cultural and historical insights. Additionally, I also appreciated the way that MacArthur brought his teaching down to a practical level, helping readers to see what the life of each biblical character reveals about God and how it should make a difference in their lives today.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes is both interesting and insightful, and as such, is a book I would gladly recommend.

More from Dr. MacArthur on the unlikely heroes of Scripture…

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Book Review: The Truth about Grace by John MacArthur

We say it’s amazing. We describe it as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. But apart from that, what do we really know about grace?

In his new book, The Truth about Grace, John MacArthur sets out to help believers gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of this often misunderstood topic. The Truth about Grace is one in a series of three small books now available from Thomas Nelson. Other volumes include The Truth about Forgiveness and The Truth about the Lordship of Christ

In the introduction, MacArthur explains that although divine favor is central to the concept of grace, the oft-repeated definition “unmerited favor” simply doesn’t go far enough. He says, “Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is ‘unmerited favor’; doing good to one’s enemies is more the spirit of grace (Luke 6:27-36).”

He suggests the following definition instead: “The free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.” In his concise and straightforward style, MacArthur goes on to teach readers from the Scriptures about the two kinds of grace (common and special), God’s sovereignty over grace, common distortions of the topic, the effects of saving grace in the lives of believers, and much more.  

Although some readers may shy away from books dealing with weighty theological issues such as this, there is no reason to fear the subject matter contained in The Truth about Grace. One of the many things I appreciate about John MacArthur is his ability to explain the deep truths of Scripture in a highly understandable manner. Whether you’re struggling with confusion in your understanding of grace or are simply interested in learning more about this merciful gift of God, I believe you’ll be encouraged and blessed by reading the brief, yet thorough teaching provided by MacArthur in The Truth about Grace.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Book Review: Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis

I had every intention of posting this review last Saturday, and if I weren’t a mom, I’m sure I would have done it. My 14 month-old daughter, however, had other plans for me, plans that kept me revolving around her from sunup to sundown.

By the time she finally went to sleep that night, I still hadn’t produced the first word of a book review, and I was completely drained. Apart from keeping my daughter clean and fed, I felt I had accomplished nothing else of significance that day. 

Moms have lots of days like that—days that seem so filled with the menial and mundane you can’t help but wonder if they even matter at all.

In her book Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role, author Erin Davis encourages frazzled moms to remember that, yes! It all matters!

A Corrected View of Ministry

Last week in my review of the book Missional Mom, I expressed the disappointment I felt when I realized that the majority of the book appeared to equate “ministry” with activities that took place outside the home. As it turns out, Erin Davis once had a similar mindset.

Davis explains in Beyond Bath Time that she and her husband actually put off having children because they thought little ones would hinder their ability to do “ministry.” She later came to see such thinking as entirely misguided:

We had been lied to. It’s a lie that has been whispered into many ears.

More and more women are choosing childlessness…Motherhood is not revered as a sacred role. Career is king. The modern equation leaves little room for children.

I believe this is one of the greatest tragedies of our time.

Davis goes on in the rest of the book to explain why she believes Christian women should “stand up to the culture and reclaim motherhood as a high and holy calling.”

A Big Message in a Small Package

At just under 150 pages, Beyond Bath Time is a great size for busy moms. Davis looks at how motherhood has been damaged by the feminist movement, by lies that women commonly believe, and by the trend of choosing childlessness.

She then moves to focus on what the Scripture has to say about the role of motherhood and encourages women to see the eternal impact they can have as they daily nurture the souls of their children…

What you’re doing might seem small…But God multiplies your efforts. Your small tasks point to a very big God if you are determined to do it all for His glory. 

Just as our definitions of blessing and burden have gotten jumbled, so have our concepts of big and small stuff for the kingdom. If a woman surrendered her life to share Bible stories with children in unreached people groups overseas, we would consider that big, and rightfully so.

But your children are also an unreached people group. They don’t come into the world with a knowledge and heart for God. It’s your job to teach them, and it’s a big job.

That’s a message we need to hear far more frequently within the church today, and I appreciate Erin Davis for sharing it.

A Wealth of Encouragement for Weary Moms

Whether you’re a brand new mom or one with years of experience, I believe you’ll find valuable encouragement in this little book on how to make your mothering count for the Kingdom of God.

Another plus is that Beyond Bath Time is one of the first books to carry the new True Woman publishing imprint, which means that the content has been approved by Revive Our Hearts and The True Woman Movement. If you know anything about the biblically-grounded nature of those ministries, then you’ll understand why that’s a very good thing.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Book Review: Missional Mom by Helen Lee

This week, I hope to share reviews of two books I’ve read recently which I believe contain very different ideas about the ministry of motherhood. I hope you’ll benefit from hearing about them. Here’s the first… 

Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World

When I first saw the cover of Missional Mom by Helen Lee, I was truly excited about having the chance to read the entire book. Based on the book’s title, subtitle, and back cover, I had the impression that Missional Mom would call attention to the vital role that motherhood plays in changing the world for Christ. What I was surprised to find, however, is that the book actually focused very little on the ministry of motherhood at all.

What Is a Missional Mom?

In the introduction, Helen Lee discusses the feelings of frustration, purposelessness, and despair that many women seem to experience once they have children. Lee set off to discover if missional living was the missing key for these moms. She spent the next year searching out women she calls “missional moms” and concluded that “Ultimately, mothers who choose a missional lifestyle have found the secret to the conundrum many mothers experience: that living missionally brings a profound sense of heavenly affirmation and peace.”

Lee goes on in the rest of the book to explain the distinctives of missional moms: they join with God in His mission to redeem lost humanity by living counterculturally, they make evangelism part of their everyday life, and they educate themselves and then seek to meet the needs of people close to home and around the world.

What I Enjoyed

Lee is incredibly passionate about encouraging women to take seriously their primary calling to love and know God by living in obedience to the Great Commission. She challenges women to resist cultural pressures that would motivate them to isolate themselves and their children in search of security, bow to materialism in search of comfort, or to idolize their children’s achievement and success in search of happiness. What Lee encourages moms to do instead is to sacrifice and push themselves outside of their comfort zones in order to advance God’s mission of redeeming the lost.

As you read Missional Mom, you simply can’t ignore Lee’s love for the Lord and those in need. Her enthusiasm and desire to honor the Great Commandment and Great Commission are obvious throughout the book, and I personally found myself challenged to evaluate my own life and seek more opportunities to help the hurting and reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What’s Missing

In spite of the many good things said in Missional Mom, my greatest concern about the book, as I referred to earlier, is what the book doesn’t say about motherhood. Although moms are mentioned on nearly every page, Lee says relatively little about the ministry of motherhood itself and seems to put the focus of missional living on those outside of the home.

Even in the eighth chapter “The Missional Mom Creates Missional Families,” Lee still neglects to address what the Bible has to say about motherhood or parenting. She recommends resisting materialism and showing generosity and hospitality as methods of creating a missional family. These are good things, of course, but when Lee suggested that moms discuss with their children fair trade coffee, global warming, and how wasting energy affects polar bears, I failed to see how these topics related to the Gospel and missional living.

What the Scripture Teaches

Unfortunately, the major impression I’m concerned readers will take away from Missional Mom is that a mother’s ministry to people outside her home is more important and more in line with the Great Commission than is her ministry to her husband and children. Biblically speaking, this is simply not the case. Paul had not forgotten the Great Commission when he instructed older women to teach younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (Titus 2:4-5). In fact, he explained that moms should live this way so that God’s Word would not be dishonored (2:5).

When a woman fears the Lord, loves her husband and children, “looks well to the ways of her household” (Prov. 31:27), partners with her husband to diligently teach their children God’s commandments (Deut. 6:7) and to train them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), she is living missionally. A woman’s family is her primary mission field and the work she does to make disciples in her own home is no less important than the work done by a missionary on a foreign field.

These are vital points that I believe are missing in Lee’s approach to missional motherhood. You simply cannot accurately portray Christian motherhood without first explaining what God has clearly revealed in His Word regarding the topic.

In Conclusion

I appreciate Helen Lee’s desire to inspire moms to share God’s heart for the lost and needy and take the Great Commission seriously. As moms who have children living at home, we must ensure that we don’t allow our primary mission field to become our only mission field, and Missional Mom contains some helpful advice on how to avoid that error by creatively responding to the needs of the world around us.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Girls Uncovered

Girls are in trouble in America.

Even though I live in a small city in North Carolina, that fact is clearly illustrated to me on a weekly basis at the local pregnancy resource center where I volunteer as a peer counselor. For the majority of young women I counsel, sexual promiscuity, unplanned pregnancies, and cohabitation are a way of life. Sadly, this lifestyle is often accompanied by abortion, STIs (sexually-transmitted infections), unemployment, and poverty. The lives of these women are a wreck, yet they hardly seem aware that any other options exist.

Girls Uncovered

In their new book Girls Uncovered, Joe McIlhaney, Jr. and Freda Bush document how America’s highly sexualized culture is destroying young women. In addition to years of professional experience as board-certified ob/gyns, McIlhaney and Bush also draw from current medical and sociological studies to reveal how the popular hook-up culture in our country is devastating the very women it claims to have liberated. The authors share this information in order to educate parents regarding the crisis facing their daughters and to motivate them to reclaim their role as their daughters’ primary protectors. 

What Society Says

Girls Uncovered is both fascinating and heartbreaking. The authors spend the first seven chapters of the book showing how our society, through its promotion of sexual promiscuity, actually works against the hopes and dreams most girls have for completing their education and establishing successful marriages and families in the future. Although adults once provided safety for young people through their oversight of the traditional process of courtship, McIlhaney and Bush believe parents in modern times have by and large left their daughters unprotected or “uncovered” by leaving them alone to navigate relationships with the opposite sex.

Without parents guiding them to make wise decisions, McIlhaney and Bush stress that young women have little option but to follow the lies they consistently receive from the media and culture which say that sex outside marriage is normal and no big deal, contraceptives make sex safe, abortion is a minor procedure, and sexual promiscuity leads to happiness.

What Studies Show

Using a wealth of statistics, McIlhaney and Bush debunk each of these myths and show that sex is a significant act which deeply affects a woman both physically and emotionally.  Brain research reveals how a complex combination of hormones released during sexual activity actually bonds women to their partners and creates a sense of trust which may partly explain why women often remain in harmful relationships. Although young people usually consider pregnancy to be the greatest risk involved with premarital sexual activity, the authors emphasize the grave consequences of STIs, which affect millions of people in the U.S. every year and can lead to infertility, miscarriage, or even death.

The Authors’ Solutions

After painting a grim picture of the risks facing girls today, McIlhaney and Bush then go on to explain what society and parents must do in order to provide the protection young women so desperately need. I would describe their solutions as traditionally moral, yet short of biblical. Although Girls Uncovered is designated as “Christian Living” and is endorsed by Josh McDowell, the content is not specifically Christian.

The authors cite the positive role of religion in raising daughters, yet do not identify the teachings of Scripture as providing the ultimate solution to the crisis our highly sexualized culture is creating among women. Nevertheless, the advice they provide is common-sense and moral and would greatly benefit our culture if put into practice.

My Thoughts

I would recommend Girls Uncovered as a helpful resource for parents, pastors, counselors, and anyone interested in ministering wisely to young women, since the information contained in this book will help adults to better understand the temptations and pressures girls commonly face in our society. It is important to remain aware, however, that it is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture that can transform the hearts of young people and empower them to flee sexual immorality and glorify God in both spirit and body. 

The Story of the Bible

Sam’s Club, The Dollar Store, a hotel room drawer, countless websites. 

In 21st century America, it seems there are few places where the Word of God cannot be easily accessed. For those of us who have never been without multiple copies of the Scriptures, it’s quite easy to overlook the priceless treasure we possess. We need to be reminded that it has not always been this way. Throughout Christian history, untold numbers of believers have given their lives to protect the very gift we so often take for granted.

In his beautiful book The Story of the Bible, Larry Stone documents the history of the written Word of God, helping believers today to understand how God has worked through His people to write, preserve, and translate the Holy Scriptures over the past 3,500 years.

When I first received my copy of this book, I was surprised both by its size and its attractive design. The Story of the Bible is a coffee table-sized book printed in full color from beginning to end. The text is accompanied by dozens of photos and illustrations, and interspersed throughout the book, readers will also find 93 life-sized color reproductions tucked away within vellum pockets. These reproductions include pages from famous copies of the Scriptures throughout history like The Great Isaiah Scroll, The Gutenberg Bible, The Bay Psalm Book, and many more.

In his foreword to the book, Ravi Zacharias says:

Larry Stone’s The Story of the Bible offers a captivating and colorful account of the history of the Bible from parchment to print, and from its English translation to over 2,400 languages. With his selection of pictures and fascinating stories, Larry has done a wonderful job of making scholarly material engaging and accessible to many more readers. Along the way, he shows how the biblical documents have withstood the most scrutinizing analysis ever imposed on any manuscript and have emerged with compelling authenticity and accuracy. [p. 5]

The Story of the Bible is well worth adding to your personal, church, or family library. Reading this book will enrich your understanding of the Bible’s unique role in human history and deepen your gratitude for the great privilege of being able to hold a copy of the Word of God in your hands.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Voices of the Faithful: Book 2 by Beth Moore & Kim Davis

What would it be like to give up everything I know to serve the Lord? Saying goodbye to family, friends, culture, and even my language to minister to souls on a foreign mission field–these are sacrifices I know nothing of. That’s why I appreciate Voices of the Faithful: Book 2 by Beth Moore and Kim P. Davis so very much. It provided me with a helpful glimpse into the lives of missionaries scattered across the globe who face these challenges and many more every single day.

As creator of the Voices of the Faithful series, Beth Moore believes we have much to learn from missionaries who serve the Lord in various regions of the world. In her introduction, Moore explains her hope that this book will inspire many to pray more effectively not only for their own personal needs, but for the needs of those sharing the gospel through their work as full-time missionaries. To that end, Kim P. Davis compiled 366 daily devotionals written by over 300 men and women who serve overseas through the International Mission Board. All royalties produced by both volumes of Voices of the Faithful benefit the work of IMB.  

The devotionals are divided by month and categorized by topic. As various missionaries share their personal experiences, struggles, and growth in Christ, readers will learn more about prayer, divine appointments, encouragement, hope, and following Christ among other topics. Each devotional is accompanied by a verse as well as a prayer which often focuses on specific needs mentioned in the missionary’s story, so when you pray, as Beth Moore puts it, “You’re not just stuck with ‘God bless the missionaries.’”

This book is both encouraging and challenging at the same time. For those of us accustomed to living with a wealth of material comforts, it can be all too easy to focus on the here and now, living as though this world were our true home and eternity were non-existent. Voices of the Faithful provides readers with much-needed reminders of what truly matters—living for the glory of God, loving others, and sharing the gospel with a world in desperate need. I commend this book to you as a means of sharpening your eternal perspective and enlarging your concern for our brothers and sisters who serve in foreign missions.

Thomas Nelson provided a complimentary copy of Voices of the Faithful: Book 2 for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Slave by John MacArthur

What does it mean to be a Christian? After decades of studying the Scriptures, John MacArthur has come to the conclusion that the essence of Christianity is found in one simple statement—“To be a Christian is to be a slave of Christ.” This premise, which MacArthur believes will revolutionize a believer’s understanding of his identity in Christ, forms the foundation for his latest book entitled Slave.

Within the pages of Slave, MacArthur reveals what he refers to as a “centuries-old cover-up” in English Bible translations—although in the Greek language doulos always and only means “slave,” its 124 appearances in the New Testament have been consistently translated instead as “servant.” While the difference between the two terms may seem minor at first glance, MacArthur uses the teachings of Scripture and historical evidence to skillfully illustrate how the mistranslation of doulos obscures vital truths about sin, salvation, and the believer’s standing in Christ. He points out a key distinction between the two terms—“servants are hired; slaves are owned.” Although a servant maintains a life apart from his work, a slave’s entire life and identity are absorbed in his master’s ownership. He has no rights, no autonomy, and no freedom to do as he pleases. The slave lives for only one purpose—to please his master in all things.

After reading Slave, I have to agree with MacArthur’s opinion regarding the critical role that the concept of slavery plays in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. So often in modern Christianity, we present Jesus Christ as the One who solves our problems, answers our prayers, and provides for our needs, but rarely do we focus on His role as the Lord and Master of our every moment. As MacArthur expounds on the heavy use of slave language within the New Testament, it becomes clear that the tendency to minimize or neglect teaching on the Lordship of Christ within the church is truly astounding and indefensible. Yes, Christ is our Savior. Yes, He is our Brother and Friend, but we must never overlook His rightful place as our Master, Owner, and Lord.

Slave is a book full of rich truths that will broaden and deepen your understanding of your salvation in Christ, your appreciation for God’s grace, and your love for your Master. I highly encourage you to add it to the top of your reading list.

Thomas Nelson provided a complimentary copy of Slave for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255