Book Reviews

Guest Post: A Review of “Before the Throne”

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

A Review of Allen S. Nelson IV’s
Before the Throne
by Melissa Googe

Each day, I become increasingly grieved by our world. We are surrounded by conflict over issues that, if we were to abide by Scripture, would be quickly settled. How can those saved by God’s grace be so divided over the answers to today’s controversies?

As a long-time Christian and the wife of a pastor, I am blessed to have spent many years in my faith. I grew up in a Christian home. I have many Christian friends. I teach in a public school system where our motto is JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself). I am surrounded by Christians, yet I find myself so frustrated with family members, friends, or colleagues that I strongly consider unfollowing them on social media or want to avoid being around them.

Sadly, there is a movement among Christians to “modernize” our faith to make it more “relevant.” To accomplish this, churches have adopted popular worldly ideas instead of expecting the lost to embrace Biblical views upon salvation. In Nelson’s preface, when I was beginning to know that I had found a kindred soul, he wrote that the answer to the church’s compulsion to be relevant is “to look downward so as to look upward.” He continued on to say that “the church that looks long into the face of God in Scripture will find that the question for “relevancy” is no longer all that relevant.” (2)

Oversimplification of all that is involved in living a Christian life and reaching others for Christ has led to churches full of lost people who falsely believe they are saved. How do we know this? Just take an honest look around. Many who claim to be Christians today actually hold to a form of “practical atheism.” (19) Nelson describes a practical atheist as one who “acknowledges the existence of God in his or her mind but lives as though He either doesn’t exist, or that He actually doesn’t care how we live or how He is to be worshiped.” Wow! This description really brings some people to mind, doesn’t it?

I sat down with Nelson’s Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness with an expectation of encountering complex theology about God’s holiness that would require me to stop reading and research information to be able to make my way through the text. While God’s holiness is not a simple subject, instead of having to stop because of running into something I didn’t understand, I had to stop because I was being humbled. This book, while it is about God’s holiness, is guaranteed to cause you not only to reflect upon God’s holiness, but to realize how truly unworthy and lost we are without Him and the sacrifice of His son.

Sin. Such a small word, but what word carries more weight? Humans try to minimize sin, but there is nothing of greater cost to us as the dividing line between us and holiness of God. Acknowledging God but then living as though He doesn’t exist, as though He doesn’t care how we live, or as though He doesn’t care about how we worship Him is completely sinful. If we are honest, no one reading this would dare to claim to have never sinned in such a way. Like Paul said in Romans 7: 15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Nelson’s Before the Throne helps readers understand what holiness is, how God and holiness are synonymous, and what referring to God’s holiness really means. While God’s holiness is anything but simple, Nelson has done an exemplary job of detailed explanations and examples of God’s undoubtable, unspeakable, untamable, unblemishable, unmatchable, unquestionable, uncontainable, unchangeable, unapproachable, uncompromising, unborable, and unquenchable holiness.

I will not attempt to touch upon each of Nelson’s points; read his book and find for yourself the “excitement, woe, conviction, awe, and gladness” of God’s holiness that Nelson shares with readers! (1) Instead, I will share how reading Nelson’s book helped me to immediately recognize God’s holiness in action. God’s holiness isn’t something that we should only think about during the preaching hour on Sunday; we should spend time each day “intentionally contemplating the holiness of God.” (209) I propose that reading Nelson’s book will help to clarify attributes of God’s holiness that are described and present in His Word, and you will then be able to apply your improved understanding of God’s holiness to life’s many different circumstances.

Last week, our small, rural county lost a pillar of our community. I could never put into words what he meant to many in the area, as he, the owner of the only funeral home in the county, was the one who ministered to us when we lost family members and friends. One response to his passing on social media was to share an excerpt from The Shack by William P. Young. In this excerpt, “the Lord” states, “…because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes.” I know this was shared with the intention of comforting those grieving, but exactly how is reading about how the Lord has nothing to do with “unspeakable tragedies” going to comfort the bereaved?

I am sure we have all experienced the deep grief that comes with the passing of a loved one. Four years ago, my best friend’s battle with cancer ended. I believe He has a plan. I believe in God’s holiness. Yet it is hard to hold onto those truths in such times. Today, I could still allow myself to be drawn into the heartbreak of losing Katherine’s tangible presence, of missing our laughter, of seeing her children grow up without her. Instead, I choose, and let us all choose, to be comforted by these truths about God’s unquestionable holiness. “We don’t judge events and conditions and then question whether God was holy in His actions. Rather, we begin with the premise that God is holy and then we filter all these through this truth – even the events and circumstances we cannot fully explain.” (102) “For today, we only know in part, but part of what we do know is that all God decides, decrees, and demands is holy.” (103)

Yesterday, a friend shared a Steven Furtick video from Elevation Church dated April 4th in which Furtick seeks to illustrate God’s grace between the gaps of where you have been and where He is taking you. However, Furtick’s illustration shows that in walking with God, “When you take a step, when you make a move, God moves too.” According to Furtick, God will not let you reach Him because you would become arrogant; “So what God is gonna do, God is going to make sure that as you grow, the gap stays.” Essentially, Furtick’s illustration teaches that you can strive to live a holy and obedient life, but you will never grow any closer to God.

I am thankful for God’s unchangeable holiness and for His unapproachable holiness. Nelson cites A.W. Tozer who wrote, “For He, being unchanging and unchangeable, can never become holier than He is.” (132) God is not going to become any holier, so He is not going to continuously move away from us. As Nelson states, “The fact that God is unchanging is unquestionable upon any honest reading of the Scriptures,” and he references verses from James, Malachi, and Hebrews. (132-33)

Furtick’s illustration missed the mark. It communicated that you can walk in God’s grace, and you can grow from where you were, but you are not ever going to be able to reach God. The people in Furtick’s church cheered his message. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, this is a perfect example of why we need to know His Word, of why we need to be able to recognize false teachings, and of why we need a much better grasp of His holiness. “Grace doesn’t minimize our sin. It exposes it for what it really is and then covers it with the blood of Jesus.” (158) Christians should desire sanctification (an important word missing from Furtick’s illustration), at the same time knowing that “In and of ourselves, we cannot approach the God of unapproachable holiness. But the son can. And in Him, we can draw near to God.” (157) Praise be to God!

As a Language Arts teacher, I speak often of the vast number of words we have that fall short in the most important moments of life. Sometimes all we can do to express our meaning is to repeat our words. I leave you with a note from Nelson on God’s unquestionable holiness. “Language buckles under the pressure to satisfactorily describe God. The threefold repetition of holy is the best our words can do to show that God is holy to the maximum.” (100) There is nothing of any greater importance than God’s holiness, and no better example of when one word alone is not enough. May Before the Throne deepen your understanding of God’s holiness and leads you to desire to know His Word and our holy, holy, holy God evermore.


Allen “Cuatro” Nelson, IV, author of Before the Throne, is the pastor of Perryville Second Baptist Church in Perryville, Arkansas. Contact Allen directly via Twitter to order Before the Throne or his first book, From Death to Life. You can also order from Amazon.

Melissa Googe came to know Christ at a young age and is thankful for each day she has had to spend with Him. Being raised in a Christian home, being the wife of a pastor, and being the mother of three are just a few of the other blessings God has given her. Melissa’s primary ministry has been to serve as a middle school teacher for eighteen years in public schools. She enjoys sharing her love of reading with students and friends and fulfilling the call to minister to others.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THOSE WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANYONE YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE
Book Reviews, Guest Posts

Guest Post: A Review of Jennie Allen’s “Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul”

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

A Review of Jennie Allen’s
Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul

by Carol Coppens

Many years ago, when I was in the 6th grade, I was taught that when doing a book report, even if I didn’t like the book, I should try to say something good about it. That was fine teaching at the time and I think it has made me a better writer, this trying to see both sides. I’m not in school any longer though and these days, I’m bound less by trying to see the good and more to pointing out the multiple errors of books like Anything. If you’re a Jennie Allen fan, you won’t like what I have to say but I can’t stay silent.

Anything is a poorly written book. It’s an irreverent book. It’s a book that will never help any woman discover the totality of God’s plan of redemption, His sovereignty, His wrath which rests on the unregenerate, nor His holy fury at those who presume to speak for Him. This is not a book that will help you to dive deep into the character of God and to know Him better but instead, Jennie’s book is a tedious, self absorbed, experience driven, hermeneutically unsound, over-stepper of scriptural boundaries, mish-mash of emotionalism and repetitive “wrecked-ness”. Here are some of the specific faults that I see.

Even in these days of relativity, where the only rule that seems to apply is that there are to be no rules at all, there are still a few that are necessary. One of the rules of basic English grammar is, if you’re going to use an adjective (remember that word from English class?) you’d better do your homework and find out exactly what that word means, in the context in which you plan to use it.

The word reckless is used multiple times in this book. Jennie describes childlike faith as living “simply, recklessly.” On pg. 97, she writes that she and her husband, “now lay in the hands of a reckless, invisible God.” Page 143 tells of her realization that people are going to think they are foolish for adopting, saying, “that goes with almost any act of recklessness, even reckless love.” Maybe she thought the word sounded powerful and kind of daring when she penned it but the definition of reckless is “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.”

Describe human beings as reckless as much as you like, because we all certainly can be, but when a writer uses the word reckless to describe almighty God, that person has crossed over into blasphemy and I would shudder to think that I had written such a thing about the God I will eventually have to give an account to. Some of the other words she uses to describe God are, “unsafe”, “wildly unpredictable”, “radical”, “ridiculously radical” and she also writes that “God is still not very practical.” Exactly where are the chapters and verses for these descriptions of God, Jennie?

In many places, Jennie adds words to Scripture that are not there. Space hinders me from listing them all, so one example will have to do. On page 184, she speaks for Jesus and writes, “as if he were letting us in on the secret, Jesus whispered back to his father, this will all be worth it. Wait till they are with us and see our glory. Just wait till all of this work and suffering and pouring out is over and we are in heaven together forever. Just wait.”

This conversation is, of course, recorded nowhere in Scripture but the words “do not exceed what is written”, definitely are. Jennie would do well to read and meditate deeply on that verse in 1 Corinthians 4. When we imagine that God is speaking to us apart from Scripture, we can easily be led to enter very dangerous territory.

An example of her flawed interpretations of Scripture is on page 37. Jennie quotes Hosea 2:14-17 but then she blatantly misinterprets God’s promise to restore Israel to Himself, as a “dramatic metaphor” about those of us who chase other loves. I say, leave Biblical interpreting to those who know about these things, Jennie. If you think that you’ve been given a new interpretation of these verses that no other person has ever had before, you’re just plain wrong. God was promising restoration to Israel in these verses and nothing else.

She also does emotional and hermeneutical callisthenics with God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (pgs. 69-70). Jennie’s theory is that God was punishing Abraham for his overwhelming love for his son that, according to her, had usurped God as Abraham’s first love. If she had thoughtfully studied these Bible passages or, if she truly understood God’s plan to ultimately save His elect, she would know that the sacrifice of Isaac and the ram God substituted for the boy, was a shadow of God’s own sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no excuse for such lazy interpretation of the sacred Scriptures. In these current times, the proliferation of false and misleading doctrine abounds. Having the correct interpretation of Scripture is of paramount importance because our eternal futures depend on understanding correctly, what God is saying to us.

On page 102, Jennie asks “so how do we actually let God change us?” Finally, I thought, a good solid question after having read page after page of drivel. Can an explanation of justification and sanctification be far behind? Sadly, they weren’t even hinted at and she goes on to tell a rather horrific (as a mother I cringed) story of telling her two oldest children to climb up a cliff and jump off! For Jennie, jumping is the key. Either “jump or crawl down” and “the more we jump and see our God come alive around us, the more we jump without fear – and the bigger the cliffs get”, she says. As the Peanuts character Charlie Brown was known to exclaim, good grief!

In the final analysis, the biggest problem I had with this book (and I slogged through it twice) was my knowing that, from the time of her “vision” in the night that Jennie feels was definitely from God, the wheels of the IF: Gatherings began to turn. For those readers who still might be unfamiliar with IF, they are para-church organization, begun by Jennie, that has no scriptural basis or authority. The gatherings happen outside of the local churches and their oversight, supposedly to accomplish something, ie. discipling women, that only churches are charged to do, in Scripture. In this case, the ends do not justify the means.

Because all the women involved in IF cannot possibly be born again, spirit filled, doctrinally sound, mature women with the spiritual gift of teaching, the possibilities for unscriptural philosophies and practices entering in to local churches, families and society at large, are enormous. I see this movement as no less than a calculated move of Satan against women, a frontal attack on the sufficiency of Scripture and a throwing off of the direct commands of God, in His Word, for both married and single women. Jennie Allen might believe that her “call” to begin IF was of God, but I do not.

So, at the end of the day, would I recommend this book to anyone? Absolutely not! What I do recommend instead is simply this – read your Bible, always praying that God will illuminate your mind with His truth. Get involved with a biblically solid church and pray for God to open doors for you to serve there. There is no substitute for a godly, biblically saturated, discerning Christian woman and one only gets that way by hard work and study. The Scriptures do not open themselves to the slothful. When a woman is mature in Christ and can properly discern truth from error then and only then it will come to pass that the writings of the Jennie Allens of this world will be seen for what they truly are, rubbish.

With a grateful nod to my 6th grade English teacher, I suppose I could say one good thing about this book and that is, that it wasn’t any longer.


Carol and her husband Mike live in a small town, on the shores of Lake Erie, in Ontario, Canada. She was 49 years old when Christ called her to be His disciple. A love for the pure truth of God’s Word fuels her passion to expose false teaching and especially that kind which has women as its primary target.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THose WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANYone YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.