Review of ‘Immediate Obedience’ by Rod Loy


Immediate-Obedience Rod Loy, Immediate Obedience: The Adventure of Tuning in to God (Springfield, MO: Influence Resources, 2014). Paperback / Kindle

My son is five years old. Much of my parenting of him at the moment involves teaching impulse control. I tell him, “Just because you feel like yelling—or making rude noses or smacking your foster sister on the back of the head—doesn’t mean you have to do it.”

It is generally understood that impulse control refers to the suppression of negative impulses. That is well and good, of course, but not all our impulses are negative. Should we also teach our children to restrain positive impulses? Shouldn’t we rather teach them to act on positive impulses? Indeed, shouldn’t we act on good impulses ourselves—to forgive, to help, to share God’s love?

In his book, Pastor Rod Loy encourages readers to practice immediate obedience, which is “the courage to act instantly on whatever [God] told [you] to do.” Such obedience assumes, of course, that God speaks to us, through Scripture preeminently but also through other means. It also assumes that we are listening, not allowing disobedience, distraction, or doubt to close our ears to God.

When we listen to God speak and immediately obey His voice, He leads us on an adventure of increasing faith, service, and blessing. When we don’t, we miss out on God’s blessing, allow disobedience to creep into other areas of our lives, and experience regret about how God could’ve used us…if only we’d been willing. Clearly, immediate obedience is the better option.

The concluding chapter of the book shares good advice about how to start developing the habit of immediate obedience: give God your heart above all else, make decisions today that will allow you to say “yes” to God tomorrow, avoid debt or eliminate it if you have it, hold possessions loosely, start small, and never say no.

The book includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making it ideal for use in small groups. It also includes “The 90-Day Challenge” with a Bible reading, prayer guide, and reflection questions. The goal of the challenge is to help you “ask God to make you sensitive to His voice, and then, to obey whatever He asks you to do.” I found this book spiritually encourage and very practical. I plan to take the 90-Day Challenge.

(Full Disclosure: I am a friend of Pastor Rod Loy, and I work for the Assemblies of God, which is the parent company of Influence Resources.)

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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Review of ‘Courageous Compassion: Confronting Social Injustice God’s Way’ by Beth Grant #UPDATE


Unknown Beth Grant, Courageous Compassion: Confronting Social Injustice God’s Way (Springfield, MO: My Healthy Church, 2014). Paperback / Kindle

Rape is a shattering experience for the victim—physically, psychologically, and spiritually. When rape is institutionalized through sexual trafficking, this shattering experience is renewed daily, and the wounds fester, slowly killing a woman’s body, soul, and spirit. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 800,000 to 4,000,000 women and children are trafficked across international borders annually, with as many as 18,500 coming into the United States alone.

In Courageous Compassion, Beth Grant issues a clarion call to Christians to combat the horrific evil of sexual trafficking. Grant is co-director of Project Rescue, a ministry to victims of sexual trafficking that began in a red-light district of Mumbai, India, in 1997. In 2013, Project Rescue provided care for over 32,000 women and children victimized by sexual trafficking in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Spain. She is also a member of the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking and coeditor of Healing Hands, which is that organization’s training manual for caregivers to victims of sexual trafficking.

Courageous Compassion lays out a strategy for “confronting social injustice God’s way,” as the book’s subtitle puts it. “There is no value-free social response to human need and injustice,” Grant writes. “All human response to human need and injustice is inevitably influenced by the values and worldview of the person responding.” Consequently, “any initiative focused on the injustice of sexual slavery and the restoration of victims developed by a Christian organization or mission should reflect the person and message of Jesus Christ.”

For Grant, confronting the social injustice of sexual trafficking requires more than political efforts to legally abolish such slavery, as valuable as they are. Rather, Project Rescue aims to intervene in the lives of women who have been trafficked, restore them holistically (physically, psychologically, spiritually), and prevent their children from being exploited in turn. This strategy utilizes, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, medical care, job training, and cooperation with local churches to accomplish those ends.

Among some American Pentecostals—Grant is an ordained Assemblies of God minister—compassion ministries that seek to rectify the problems of social injustice are viewed with suspicion, as examples of a liberal “social gospel” that replaces evangelism and discipleship with political activism. Courageous Compassion allays those suspicions—and does so entirely—by presenting a holistic Pentecostal approach.

Who should read it Courageous Compassion? Christians interested in issues of social justice. Pastors whose churches send short-term missions teams to countries to work on compassion projects. Missionaries—both current and prospective—who need to see what holistic ministry looks like. And scholars who work at the intersection of theology, the Church’s mission, and social issues.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

(Full disclosure: I am a friend of Beth Grant, and I work for the Assemblies of God, which is the parent company of My Healthy Church.)

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page. Then buy the book! The Kindle version is available for download right now at the bargain price of 99 cents.

Review of ‘Getting the Reformation Wrong’ by James R. Payton Jr.


Getting-the-Reformation-Wrong James R. Payton Jr., Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic 2010). Paperback / Kindle

Every now and then, I hear friends describe—denounce, really—some book as a work of “revisionist history.” What they mean by that appellation is that the book contains a false account of the past. And while they may or may not be correct in their evaluation, what strikes me is their misunderstanding of the historical task. By nature, all historical writing is revisionist. That is, the task of historians is to revise our present understanding of the past through better methodologies and more accurate information. They don’t always succeed in doing so, but they (should) always try. Absent their efforts, we run the risk of misremembering the past and acting in the present on the basis of misleading, if not false, history.

In Getting the Reformation Wrong, James R. Payton Jr. engages in a revisionist history of the 16th-century Reformation in order to correct popular misunderstandings of that seminal movement, especially among North American evangelicals. Successive chapters deal with the following misunderstandings:

  • The Reformation did not originate de novo in the 16th century (chapter 1). Rather, the events of the 16th century built on the desire felt throughout Western Christendom in the preceding two centuries for reformatio in capite et membris—Latin for head-to-toe reformation. The reformers may have capitalized on this long-felt desire, but they did not create it.
  • The Renaissance and Reformation were not competing movements (chapter 2). Instead, they were complementary movements. Indeed, with the notable exception of Luther, most of the first generation of Protestant reformers were “humanists,” that is, advocates of a liberal arts education as opposed to a medieval scholastic education.
  • The Reformation did not emerge rapidly or smoothly (chapter 3). Rather, in the early years, different people were attracted to Luther for different reasons, not all of them having to do with justification by faith. For example, the Peasant Revolt drew inspiration from themes in Luther’s writings, even though Luther himself specifically—and forcefully—condemned the revolt.
  • The Reformers did not agree with one another (chapter 4). Indeed, their disputes were sometimes rancorous and led to longstanding rifts within the movement.
  • The Reformers did not dispute the importance of good works in the life of the Christian (chapter 5). They agreed that we are justified by faith alone (sola fide), but they also agreed that the faith by which we are justified is not alone. It produces good works.
  • Similarly, the Reformers did not think that the Christian life could dispense with church tradition (chapter 6). They believed in Scripture alone (sola fide) as the final, unquestioned authority in the life of the church. But they also believed that tradition (e.g., creeds, councils, confessions, etc.) could play a subordinate role.
  • Regarding the so-called “radical reformation,” Payton shows that 16th-century Anabaptists were not predecessors of Baptists, incorporated a broader range of groups than modern-day Anabaptists, and originated in multiple places, not just in Switzerland (chapter 7).
  • The Counter Reformation was not merely a response to the Protestant Reformation (chapter 8). Rather, based on a centuries-old desire for head-to-toe reformation, various Catholic reform movements spread up before, along with, and outside of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Late-16th– and early-17th-century Protestant scholasticism was not necessarily a natural outgrowth of the earlier Reformation (chapter 9). Rather, it represented a significant shift in methodology and emphasis.
  • The Reformation was not an unalloyed success, at least not according to the Reformers’ own stated goals (chapter 10).
  • Similarly, if we pay attention to the teaching of the Reformers, then we cannot see the Reformation as a theological norm or “golden age” (chapter 11).

This bullet-pointed summary of Getting the Reformation Wrong doesn’t do justice to Payton’s nuanced argumentation, though it alerts you to the topics he addresses. The book is gracefully written, fair-minded, and insightful on a range of topics. I was especially impressed by the chapters on the events preceding the Reformation (chapter 1) and on the Catholic movements for reformation (chapter 8). The desire for reformatio in capite et membris was both widespread and ecumenical.

Payton’s final chapter asks whether the Reformation was a triumph or a tragedy, and concludes that it was both. Triumph: “it rediscovered and boldly proclaimed the apostolic message, the Christian gospel.” Tragedy: “divisions among the Protestant Reformers have mushroomed among their descendants in contravention of the explicit words of Jesus Christ himself” (i.e., in John 17:20–21). “It is at least a horrendous anomaly,” Payton writes, “that the sixteenth-century Reformation got rid of the clutter that obscured the foundation of the Christian faith, only to have Protestants cover that foundation again with the clutter of our manifold divisions.”

To which this Protestant can only say: “Lord, have mercy!” And also, thank God for revisionist historians who bring such problems to light!

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas’ by Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak


The-Gospe-in-the-Marketplace Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas: Paul’s Mars Hill Experience for Our Pluralistic World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014). Paperback / Kindle 

Among American evangelicals, it is a truism to say that America is fast becoming a post-Christian nation. The nation’s increasing diversity combined with the rapid rise of religious “nones” have resulted in a very different religious landscape than the one depicted in Will Herberg’s mid-20th-century classic, Protestant—Catholic—Jew, where those three religious constituted Americans’ religious choices. This new landscape requires evangelical Christians to adopt new methods in their evangelistic mission to the current generation.

Why? Because many of our methods assume that the people we are talking to agree with us on basic assumptions about the authority of the Bible, the nature of God, the necessity of atonement, and the reasonableness of faith. For much of American history, evangelism thus consisted of calling nominal Christians to practice a more authentic faith. In our increasingly non-Christian and post-Christian nation, however, it is unsafe to make any of those assumptions.

In their new book, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas, Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak examine Paul’s Mars Hill sermon (Acts 17:16–34) to see what insights the Bible itself supplies to evangelical Christians who wish to proclaim the eternal gospel in temporally relevant manner. Among Paul’s evangelistic sermon in Acts, the Mars Hill sermon best approximates our own cultural situation. Athens was a pre-Christian, pluralistic culture, whose religious and philosophical assumptions and practices differed dramatically from Paul’s. And yet, Paul found a way to speak meaningfully to the Athenians, affirming what he could in their culture, while providing a critique of those beliefs and practices that kept them from seeing their need for faith in Jesus Christ.

This dual-movement of Jesus-centered affirmation and critique will have a different flavor in 21st-century America, of course. But the logic of the approach will be the same.

  • Distinguish between persons and beliefs.
  • Describe the unknown God.
  • Point to signals of transcendence.
  • See evangelism and apologetics as interrelated process.
  • Challenge contemporary idolatries/ideologies.
  • Above all, point to Jesus as the climax of history and the fulfillment of our highest ideals.

As we follow Paul’s Mars Hill evangelistic methodology, we will find that some of our listeners will sneer, just as some Athenians sneered at Paul. But some will believe. It is for them that we must “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote yes on my Amazon.com review page.

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