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Showing posts from April, 2013

Willing to Walk on Water

Willing to Walk on Water by Caroline Barnett
This new book by Caroline Barnett entitled Willing to Walk on Water is a fountainhead of encouragement for those desiring to step out in faith and help others.  Barnett, alongside with her husband Matthew, are instrumental in the ministry of The Dream Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Dream Center is devoted to helping the needs of the community through various ways; food for the needy, discipleship programs for those in addictions, foster care family support and many other ways.  Part of the goal of this book is the telling of Caroline’s story of her own life in following God in the midst of serving others.  Furthermore, she provides a kind of roadmap to those who might be discouraged with the radical problems of our world but nevertheless want to help make things better. 
Caroline began her road to service as a volunteer right after turning 18.  Every Friday and Saturday she would head out with a group of people to minister, pray,…

Why Cities Matter

Why Cities Matter by Stephen T. Um & Justin Buzzard
The buzz of motors, the screech of the subway and the look of sharp dressed men and women all bring together the sights and sounds of the city.  People flock to the city for new careers, for a new start and for a new lease on life.  Yet, the question of how God relates to the city, how the church should view cities is often on the periphery of the discussion of cities.  Pastors Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard, both familiar with life in the big city, Boston and Silicon Valley, seek to reveal the importance and necessity of cities in their new book, Why Cities Matter.  Furthermore, this book also provides an answer as to how the gospel relates to the city?  In other words, “The question is, will gospel churches and Christians be present when the world arrives in the city?” (29). 
The first chapter, The Importance of Cities deals with the ever burgeoning influence of cities upon the culture as a whole in our society.  The authors…

Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel
This new book of charts on the life, letters, and theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel is an extraordinary resource for students.  The charts are broken up into four sections: Background and context, life and ministry, letters, and theological concepts.  Each section is replete with biblical verse citations, ancient source references and short commentary on the various concepts that are introduced.  Not only do you get a thoughtful and well-presented chart on Paul but you also are encouraged to learn more about Paul through the references. 
Dead Aim Focus
It would be very easy to produce a selection of charts on Paul and overwhelm the student trying to engage the whole of Paul’s thought.  Yet, Lars is very careful to bring to the surface those details that are most pertinent to Paul’s theology and ministry.  In the section of background, Lars provides us with a chart on First-Century Judaisms that is to the point but also…

What We Talk About When We Talk About God

What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell
With the firestorm that came with his last book, Love Wins, Rob Bell ventures on new ground with his new book entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About God.  Most readers will soon realize when reading a Rob Bell book that he doesn’t use the traditional categories when speaking about the Christian faith.  In the first chapter of this book, Bell writes, “But when people turn to many of the conventional, traditional religious explanations for this reverence, they’re often led to the God who is like Oldsmobiles, the one who’s back there, behind, unable to keep up” (11).  For Bell, his experience and in those whom he speaks with, there is a radical disconnect between their experience and the traditional ways of talking about God.  Bell goes onto describe an experience on Easter Sunday morning where a flood of doubts came rushing upon him, not even knowing if God exists, yet knowing that he needed to be passionate about the resurre…

John Newton

John Newton: Bitesize Biographies by John Crotts
This little biography of John Newton written by Pastor John Crotts is a delightful read that ploughs the landscape of Newton’s life on many a ship, his marriage, and his faith that resounds out through his writings.  As Crotts mentions in the opening chapter, many people know two things about Newton; that he was the author of the hymn Amazing Grace and that he was a slave captain of a ship (10).  Yet, there is much more to his story than a hymn and a ship.  Crotts goes on to give us the main outline of Newton’s life, focusing on the trials at sea, his propensity for wildness, and the way God grabbed a hold of his life when things seem so bleak.
Remarkable Early Life Details
Crotts points out some remarkable details of Newton’s early life that are worth mentioning.  First, Newton’s mother, Elizabeth, was a devout and godly woman, and she sought to prepare her young son for the ministry at an early age.  Even more, she had John memorize Sc…

Evolution's Purpose

Evolution’s Purpose: An Integral Interpretation of the Scientific Story of Our Origins by Steve McIntosh
In Steve McIntosh’s new book, Evolution’s Purpose, he seeks to bring to the surface the purpose of evolution through what he calls an ‘integral’ point of view.  Part of this model of integration is seeing that biological evolution cannot solve all the riddles of the universe and must account for constructs such as value, purpose and telos.  Therefore, in this book, Steve tries to incorporate a broader understanding of evolution from a cultural, biological, and teleological framework.  I hope in this review to outline some particularly important features of the book while also engaging with some points that were no so well done.
Materialism as the End of All Discussion on Evolution?
McIntosh carefully and demonstrably counters the notion that scientific materialism is the winning argument for evolution.  He writes, “…the scientific facts of evolution cannot stand alone.  These powerf…

Bound Together

Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices by Chris Brauns
Pastor Chris Brauns takes on a timely and significant subject in his new book entitled Bound Together.  He goes on to explain by writing, “Our future and our place in this world aren’t simply the sum of our own individual choices.  On varying levels, we are roped together with others.  When someone we are roped to is lifted up, we are lifted up with them” (25).  Whether it’s the elementary class getting no recess for the actions of one person or a family bearing the consequences of having one of its members lose their driver’s license, we are all bound together and thus our decisions radically affect those around us.  Brauns goes on to explain how this principle works itself out in the Biblical story as well, by citing the examples of the flood in Noah’s day and the destruction that ensued at Sodom and Gomorrah.  Brauns explains the principle of the rope, that we are bound together by writing, “the decis…

Idol Factory

Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart by Kyle Idleman
Many readers will know of Kyle Idleman, the pastor who wrote Not a Fan a while back.  Kyle is Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, one of the biggest churches in America.  His new book, Gods at War, focuses on the issue of idolatry as the one issue that keeps from following Jesus rightly.  Kyle writes, “Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from….Idolatry isn’t an issue, it is the issue.  All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods” (22).  Idleman helpfully locates God’s commandment to have no other gods before me in an exclusive sense, not in some kind of hierarchy (23).  The further discussion of the difficulty of naming idols in our culture is tempered with a discussion of the way idols work, taking preeminence in our lives.  Idleman helpfully identifies hints of an idol in the things we pursue or the thin…

Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought

Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought by Vern Poythress
Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary has written a monumental book entitled Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought.  What is unique about this book is the way Poythress integrates an understanding of how God relates to logic, their systems, and language that is provided to understand the workings of logic.  The book is divided into four parts: Elementary Logic, Aspects of Propositional Logic, Enriching Logic, and Supplements.  The first section incorporates proposals for why we study logic, how logic reveals God and his attributes and elements of classification.  The other sections get into the nuts and bolts of propositional logic, mathematic formulations that coincide with logical formulations, and theistic proofs or foundations.  While this may not be a book you take with you to the beach, this is a mighty powerful tool in understanding lo…

The Singing Grammarian

The Singing Grammarian by H. Daniel Zacharias
This new downloadable resource entitled The Singing Grammarian by H. Daniel Zacharias is a wonderful resource for introductory Greek students and pastors.  The great benefit of this resource is in the multi-faceted functions provided by the resource, combining music, visual aids, and rhymes to enhance the learning.  At times the songs were a bit comical, which I think aided in the learning process because it doesn’t really feel like your studying Greek grammar as you go through the process.
The Singing Grammarian starts with the Greek Alphabet and then transitions into looking at declensions, articles and then to verbal tenses.  The great advantage of this program is that you visually see the paradigms on the screen, are led by a song about the endings of the verbal tenses, and witness the changes in the paradigms throughout the whole form of the verb.  While this might not make much sense to those just coming to Greek, to those immersed i…

Crucifying Morality

Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes by R.W. Glenn
In his new book, Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes, R.W. Glenn seeks to demystify the Beatitudes for the Christian.  Rather than see the Beatitudes as imperatives ‘to be’ a certain kind of person or seeing them as providing an impossible hill to climb, Glenn sees then quite differently.  He writes, “Christians, because they come to understand the grace of God, are people who are poor in spirit, who mourn and are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness not their own, who exude mercy and purity of heart, who make peace, and who experience persecution for Jesus’ sake.  The Beatitudes are a profile of the Christian” (17).   Furthermore, the Beatitudes are a kind of gospel litmus test for all those who believe, because they bear witness to the life available to those who have been saved by the grace of God. 
One of the best parts of the book was the first section on The Good News of Moral Bankruptcy.  I…