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Showing posts from 2013

Saving Casper

Saving Casper: A Christian and an Atheist Talk about Why We Need to Change the Conversion Conversation by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper
Many readers will quickly know the authors of this book from their previous release Jim and Casper Go to Church.  Jim and Matt’s new book entitled Saving Casper focuses on the way we talk about conversion in the church and the devastating ways we have pushed away atheists and other non-believers by our posture.  Both Jim and Matt traversed the national landscape, meeting in churches and asking hard questions about faith, conversion, and life. The basic premise of the book and travel is laid out here in their words, “Part of what Casper and I are trying to achieve when we speak to a group of Christians is to help people move a little bit on their “judgment meter.”  This capacity, while intellectually and often theologically uncomfortable, provides a way to stay connected…

St. Hildegard of Bingen

St. Hildegard of Bingen: Doctor of the Church by Carmen Acevedo Burcher
In this the life of St. Hildegard, Carmen helps us get into the songs, theology, and letters of this amazing woman.  Finally, we get a chronology of her life at the end of the book with an excellent appendix on further revised spiritual reader on St. Hildegard of Bingen, Carmen Burcher (Professor of Medieval Studies) examines the life of this poet, mystic, artist, preacher, and composer.  After a 21 page chapter on reading for those interested in future study.  Overall, I think the book was very well organized and brought out the immense creativity of St. Hildegard while displaying the cultural situation in which she lived.
Carmen brings out the real emotion of St. Hildegard that she constantly battled with.  Writing about the Scivias, Hildegard’s visionary work, Carmen writes, “But Hildegard did not begin immediately.  She hesitated…

Fleeing Herod

Fleeing Herod: A Journey Through Coptic Egypt with The Holy Family by James Cowan
This travelogue through Coptic Egypt by James Cowan is an illuminating and provocative story of the Holy Family and Cowan’s attempt to put the pieces together on their journey through Egypt.  Meeting with Coptic priests, nuns, and lay people, Cowan strives to bring together the story of the Holy Family’s journey with many available extra biblical texts that we have available.  What I enjoyed about the book was its familiar way of letting us in on the journey, overhearing the interviews, breathing in some of the history of Coptic Egypt that I was unfamiliar with. 
We find early on in the book some wisdom from the mouth of Pope Shenouda, leader of the Coptic Church.  “The world forgets sometimes, Pope Shenouda went on, “that many of the questions relating to the nature of God were asked by the Ancient Egypt…

Partnering with the King

Partnering with the King: Study the Gospel of Matthew and Become a Disciple of Jesus by John L. Hiigel

This new study of Matthew’s Gospel by John Hiigel, Professor of Biblical Studies at University of Sioux Falls is a penetrating analysis of the narrative with practical bits of wisdom throughout the text.  John takes us through Matthew in 31 readings introducing us to many of the key themes of the text.  I really enjoyed the format that John provided us with the Scripture text, background commentary, theological points, and application.  I think anyone who reads this book will find great encouragement and be challenged by the Gospel and its call to follow Jesus as a disciple.
John carefully brings out the theological message of the Gospel of Matthew in a profound way.  After giving us the genealogy in Matthew 1, John writes, “This leads to the genealogy’s second contribution: the idea that something long hoped for is being ful…

Strange Fire

Strange Fire by John MacArthur
Pastor John MacArthur is no stranger to debate, argument, and attacking movements among the church that he deems doctrinally and spiritually destructive.  His latest book, Strange Fire, is a look at the modern Charismatic movement from a critical and cessationist point of view.  Rather than just trying to add a few thoughts from his previous book, Charismatic Chaos, John seeks to confront the movement from a two pronged approach; namely, pointing out the unbiblical nature of both the extra biblical gifts (tongues, prophecy, healing), including the radical distorted views of the leaders of the charismatic movement, and also, to help the reader understand the Spirit’s work in relationship to the word, salvation, and sanctification.  At the end of the book, John poses a letter to his continuationist friends who align with his gospel truths but maintain the use of the gifts today.  After reading the book, you feel as …

Five Points

Five Points: Towards A Deeper Experience of God’s Grace by John Piper
Controversial, misunderstood, and often serving as a battering ram, the five points of Calvinism are in need of an overhaul through a practical and winsome portrayal.  John Piper, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church (33 years) in Minneapolis, Minnesota and author of Desiring God has penned a penetrating introductory analysis of these truths of Calvinism in Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace.  The book comprises a section of historical roots, 59 pages on the five points themselves, and few chapters on the practical impact of the five points upon the faith, including a personal testimony from John.  The last few chapters are where John unpacks how the five points fit into the context of meaningful ministry, practical theological concerns, and real-life issues in which theology and reality come together.  Overall, this little book is a good introduction to the main truths of Calvinism without…

The Jesus Storybook Bible

The Jesus Storybook Bible Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones Ilustrated by Jago
We have been using this amazing book in our children’s worship time at Mercy Road for a long while.  Finally, I decided to purchase a copy for my family, especially as a gift for my daughter for Christmas, except I couldn’t wait for that long to give it to her.  The Jesus Storybook Bible, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago Silver is a beautifully done retelling of the Bible story with Jesus as the center.  During the opening chapter, Sally writes, “But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing.  It’s about God and what he has done.” (14)  This God-centric understanding of Scripture permeates the entire Jesus Storybook Bible.  Further, Sally indicates that, “And at the center of the Story, there is a baby.  Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all the other piec…

Preaching: A Biblical Theology

Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason C. Meyer
The mantle of leadership has been passed from the steady hands of John Piper to the young preacher/scholar in Jason C. Meyer at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This new book, Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason is a winsome book devoted to the awesome task of preaching God’s word to His people.  Rather than a prescript-filled resource, Jason’s main concern is to “steward and herald God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word” (21).  The stewarding aspect of preaching is primarily about the managing of the faithful words of Scripture so that the clear truth of the word is evident as we preach and speak.  Heralding concerns the tone of the preacher and his delivery even as the authority of the preacher is a derived one (23).  What we find in the largest section of the book, Part II is a rendering of paradigm shifts in the ministry of the Word from…

The War on Christmas

The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression Edited by Bodie Hodge
Each Christmas brings with it the fair share of holiday greetings, treats, and jolly carols.  Yet, even in  the holiday spirit there is a war on Christmas going on.  In steps General Editor Bodie Hodge, an author of the new book entitled The War on Christmas.  What do you really know about Christmas, its origins, the birth of Jesus, and the promulgation of a jolly old soul named Santa Claus?  Bodie tries to clear up the fog in our minds about the true meaning of Christmas, its beginning, and the nagging questions many Christians face when talking to others about reindeer, Santa Claus, and a supernatural birth.  At the outset, I want to say that the publishers, New Leaf Publishing Group did a fabulous job with the presentation of the material in the book.  The book’s images, artwork, and feel really helped me g…

The In-Between

The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing by Jeff Goins
We often spend inordinate amounts of time waiting for the next big thing to happen in our lives, waiting for spectacular to show up and in many cases he does not.  Author Jeff Goins points us out of that old conundrum that would posit meaning only as it places us in momentous occasions and events.  In his new book, The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing, Jeff embraces the tension between what was once an exciting ride through life and the reality that life is different now, reality is much more about waiting than it is about anything.  Jeff writes in the Introduction, “We all want to live meaningful lives full of experiences we can be proud of.  We all want a great story to tell our grandchildren.  But many of us fail to recognize that the best moments are the ones happening right now” (17).…

The New Calvinism Considered

The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment by Jeremy Walker
The wave of interest in Calvinism in recent years is burgeoning and exploding in both the American context and overseas.  Pastor Jeremy Walker considers this trend in his new book, The New Calvinism Considered to be both a cause of commendation and concern for the growth of the good news of Jesus Christ.  Yet, there is a difficulty in ascertaining, “documentary evidence for the assertion that some individual or group is, in some measure, New Calvinist” (12).  Labels often are more pedagogical markers rather than true to the nature of a movement or group.  Take this with the fact that the New Calvinist movement is replete with books, conferences, blog posts, and sermons that overwhelm the observer and much more those who wish to engage the movement on a whole.  Pastor Walker…

Rude Awakening

Rude Awakening by Mark Donnelly

The phrase ‘rude awakening’ often refers to a situation a person faces in which they are unprepared for or were not ready for in the least bit.  Mark E. Donnelly’s new book entitled Rude Awakening is a jolt to the bones of those believers coming to church every week and believing on their own merit.  Donnelly goes onto ask a series of introspective questions regarding our relationship with God in writing, “What is the fruit of truly knowing God?....Are you a good Christian? By whose definition?  Are you defining your goodness merely by what you abstain from” (14-15)?  Mark supposes that there is a kind of knowledge about God that doesn’t equate to truly knowing him because there is a disconnect between our actions and our heart.  Rather, being united to Christ gives us the motivation to love people well and serve them. Mark goes onto to mention that the love i…

The Wayfinding Bible (NLT)

The Wayfinding Bible from Tyndale House Publishers
This new Bible put out by Tyndale House Publishers is a unique contribution to the Bibles that you fin on the market.   There are three basic routes that you can take in reading this Bible: flyover, the direct and scenic routes.  The flyover route is 54 readings in the Scriptures that give the reader a chronological understanding of the Bible.  The direct route comprises 215 readings that give a more robust selection of readings to grasp the meaning of the entire Bible within a year’s time.  The last route, the scenic route, is 386 readings in God’s Word that traces the known and not well known passages of the Scriptures to give the reader a fuller and deeper understanding of both chronology and meaning of the text.  In my reading, I chose to take the flyover route to see how different types of passages fit together both chronologically and thematically.  What you will find in this Bible is a wealth of material that is helpful in obse…

God's Great Plan

God’s Great Plan Written by Melissa Cutrera and Illustrated by Matthew Sample II
This new children’s picture book, God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera and Matthew Sample, II is a wonderful retelling of the story of redemption in the Bible starting from the creation and moving to redemption.  The illustrations by Matthew Sample II are beautifully rendered and capture the emotional weight of the story from the glory of creation, to the darkness of the Fall, to the majesty of redemption.  Melissa artfully tells the biblical narrative through two line rhymes that coincide with the stunning illustrations.  I read this book to my daughter at least two times and she really enjoyed the interaction between the story and the illustrations, how they seamlessly fit together.  Overall, this book was a real gem to read and to discuss with my family because it pushed us to talk about the story and its truth.
The Real Author of the Story I know thi…

Preaching? Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching

Preaching? Simply Teaching on Simply Preaching by Alec Motyer
When a very able and competent Old Testament scholar puts his hand at the plough of preaching, my attention stands up.  Alec Motyer, former principal of Trinity College, Bristol, is known for his careful words on the book of Isaiah and also the Bible Speaks Today series, Old Testament portion.  His new book, Preaching?, is a trove of wisdom on the art, development, and application of sermons.  In the beginning of the book, Alec notes that preaching is much like the window dressings you see at a local store, with the items the storekeeper most wants to sell right out front for you eye.  He writes,” Bible in hand, we have a stockroom full of the most amazing collection of goods to offer – real bargains too!...Everything must lead to that central truth” (12).  Our goo…

Painting the Stars DVD

Painting the Stars: Science, Religion and An Evolving Faith Home Edition
This new DVD entitled Painting the Stars put out by Living the Questions is a collection of 20 minute sessions devoted to the connection between science and religion, specifically Christianity and an evolving spirituality.  The contributors range from Philip Clayton, Michael Dowd, to Rachel Held Evans and John  Shelby Spong.  The premise of the sessions is the main point that in order to heal the rift between science and Christianity we must embrace an evolutionary Christian spirituality, one that embraces the cosmos with the ancient Christian practices of meditation, prayer, community, and reading.  To progressive believers, these sessions will strengthen your faith and vision of a spiritual life that is inclusive and includes an acceptance of an evolutionary paradigm that describes each stage of life.  As an evangelical believer, I found these sessions to …

Clear Winter Nights

Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax
Clear Winter Nights is a provocative story that drawn together themes of doubt, faith, the truthfulness of Christianity and family relationships.  Seen through the lens of Chris Walker’s, the book’s main protagonist, the story develops through the characters including his fiancĂ©e Ashley, his Grampa Gil and a few other characters.  This novel or story is rather unusual in that it carries with it more signs of what it means to struggle with the Christian faith and opposing viewpoints than developing a riveting storyline.  Chris is in the midst of college in which his faith is being tested through the stimulating teaching of a professor who doesn’t seem to inhabit the kind of evangelical Christianity Christ is involved with.  Chris ends up confiding in his grandpa about these struggles and finds not only a sparring partner theologically and spiritually, but a man who has weathered the st…

You'll Get Through This

You’ll get through this: Hope and Help for your Turbulent Times by Max Lucado
I didn’t expect to find so much profound truth in this book until I started reading.  Max’s new book, entitled You’ll Get Through This, is a real look at the narrative of Joseph’s life with an eye towards the brokenness and messed up stuff that happens in the lives of ordinary people.  The book is 15 chapters that range from topics like scandals and scoundrels to evil and revenge.  All the elements of a popular drama movie here yet captured through the eyes of Joseph and our situation.  Max seemingly holds together the newspaper and the Bible together in one hand throughout this book, only stepping to add bits of personal stories along the way.  Yet, I think the real power of this book is razor sharp ability of Max to ask the right questions (everyone is thinking), but offer solid, biblically faithful answers.  Rather than focus overall on t…