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Hymns of the Heart

Hymns of the Heart: Discovering God in the Psalms by Adam Faughn
Have you ever needed a guide to reading the book of Psalms in the Old Testament?  Has it ever occurred to you that focusing on certain psalms will help you in your study of the Bible?  Adam Faughn helps his readers get in the heart of the psalms as he looks at 35 of them in his new book, Hymns of the Heart: Discovering God in the Psalms.  The book is designed to open up the prayer and worship book of the OT and help us discern the meaning for today.
Adam gets into each psalm by looking at the structure, theology, and message of each psalm for today.  With an appreciation for the historical context of each psalm, Adam weaves together scholarship, story and application that helps the reader understand each psalm in its context.  With most chapters being around 10 pages, you can easily pick up the book and learn more about each of the 35 included psalms.  One thing I really thought was done well in this book was Adam’s insist…

Notables Books Worth Reading

Here are a few books I'm reading this Christmas season that you might also enjoy:



Sean Michael Lucas is Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi and a wonderful church history scholar as well.  He taught at Covenant Seminary while I was there and his prior book on On Being Presbyterian is my go to book to introducing people to the historic Presbyterian faith.  This new book traces the roots of the PCA from early on in the 19th century, through the ruckus that was caused between the North and the South Presbyterian bodies and stretches toward today with the founding of the PCA in 1973.  With an eye toward the theological shakeup with the beginning of Union Seminary and the emergence of social gospel emphases, Lucas does a great job at identifying the roots that eventually came to be the PCA.  This is much more than a book on the PCA but a book on Reformed identity and the shaping of a story that affects a much broader Protestant evangelical contingent.

1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentary)

1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Douglas Sean O’Donnell
Every week we say it in worship after our admission/confession of sin, the single verse from 1 John 1.9 that states, “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness.”  This succinct truth delves deep into our hearts for it brings out two simple yet profound concepts; namely our confession and God’s faithfulness to forgive.  In this new commentary on 1-3 John by Pastor and scholar Douglas Sean O’Donnell, the author gets into the heart of these three small books near the end of the NT canon with wit, wisdom, and clarity.  Douglas states early on his book that John had two purposes in writing his epistles; pastoral in that he wrote to bring assurance of faith to his readers and second, polemical, upholding the truth of the incarnation among those who wanted to deny Christ’s full humanity (xiv).
Commenting on 1 John 2.14 where John signals his audience of yo…

Empire of Sin

Empire of Sin by Gary Krist
This new book by author Gary Krist chronicles the twists and turns of life in New Orleans round the turn of the 20th century.  The book takes into account two murders, the growing up of the grandchildren of former slaves, and centers on the period between 1890-1920.  For anyone familiar with Krist, his writing is penetrating, historically grounded, and gets you right into the center of the action with clarity and wit.
The early part of the book looks at Detective George Long and his investigation of the murder of Joseph and Catherin Maggio, Italian immigrants who ran a small grocery story.  Immediately we find the junior detective and the senior detective (Long) coming up with different scenarios concerning the person who committed the murders.  Yet, the one piece of evidence that was still puzzling to them was a chalk message that was found earlier in the day with the words, “Mrs. Joseph Maggio is going to sit up tonight just like Mrs. Toney.”  The clue was …

Newton on the Christian Life

Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke
Many Christians know the name John Newton by the perennial hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ but what they do not know is that Newton’s life is quite a remarkable story.  Tony Reinke, in his new book on Newton entitled, Newton on the Christian Life, writes with clarity and encouragement for all those wanting to know Newton more and to see in his life a devoted follower of Christ.  The book delves into his shipwreck of a life in the slave trading industry and also his work with William Wilberforce, but focuses more acutely on how Newton saw the varied Christian life, from its sorrows to its joys.
What is often not known about Newton is that he was an extraordinary pastoral letter writer.  Reinke notes, “Newton’s superb letter-writing skills, marked with spiritual clarity, self-deprecating wit, vivid metaphor, motive-piercing acuity, and insights of blazing glory, all help to explain why Newton’s pastoral influence spread far beyond the village of Olney, be…

Ravi Zacharias Quote

Notable Books

Here a few notable books I've been reading recently:



You will surely know Winner from her previous books, some of which are entitled, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, Mudhouse Sabbath, and Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.  This is a rather deep look about ways in which we meet God that are out of the ordinary or ways in which we past over that are very easily unidentifiable.  The chapter on Smell is illuminating and challenging to say the least.  Quoting from George Orwell and others, Lauren peers into our hearts that allow smell to distance us from becoming friends with others.  She writes, "Perhaps if smelling is to be a part of my relationship with God, I might start here: trying to unlearn whatever I have been taught about the relationship of smell to virtue, trying to notice how I let smell become a barrier between me and people who might be my friends (89)."  With quotes from spiritual guides and thinkers to wisdom from her own experience, this book is…

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament by Philip Wesley Comfort
Longtime scholar of ancient biblical manuscripts, Dr. Comfort has been an authority on textual manuscript traditions for many years.  Here, in this updated edition, his A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is a welcome addition to the growing field of textual studies.  What do you find in such a commentary?  For one, Comfort introduces the reader to the extant papyrus manuscripts we have of the New Testament, namely the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the Chester Beatty Papyri, and the Bodmer Papyri.  Also, Comfort reasons that the earliest manuscript evidence is generally followed, “documentary evidence has pride of place (31).”
One of the most significant sections of the book for me was Comfort’s elucidation concerning nomina sacra in the NT. Comfort writes, “The earliest copies of the New Testament writings (perhaps some of the autographs themselves) included these specially inscript…

Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Giving Each Other the Benefit of the Doubt
At the slightest instance of gossip, do we enter into the conversation and pile up our baggage about another person’s character, personality, or appearance?  Giving each other the benefit of the doubt means thinking the best of someone and their intentions even when we get the sinking feeling that there are ulterior motives on the horizon.  Giving the benefit of the doubt means also bearing with people, loving them well even when in the past they’ve sinned against us.  The Scriptures connect the way we perceive others and also give them the benefit of the doubt through various lenses, one of which is the theme of love found in 1 Corinthians 13.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13.4-7,
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hope…

Recalling the Hope of Glory

Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation by Allen Ross
What is the foundational element of worship from a theological perspective?  Why do we worship in the way we do as Christians?  All these questions are encountered in the delightful and carefully written book, Recalling the Hope of Glory by Professor Allen Ross.  Ross is known for his insightful works on the Psalms (both from Kregel Academic) and his work on Biblical Hebrew.  In this book on worship, Allen begins by cataloging the lowly and unsatisfying picture of worship in many of our churches as a mundane affair that is casually done by its participants.  Instead, Ross rightly posits worship as “a transcendent meeting with the living God (39).”  The reason that so much of our worship is lacking in substance and vision is the deficit of a robust biblical and theological of worship that undergirds all of what we do and say concerning worship (38).
When we come to the fount of meaning concern…

The Epic of God

The Epic of God by Michael Whitworth
Michael Whitworth in his award winning book The Epic of God takes the Book of Genesis as his main textbook and outlines, brings to life, and applies God’s Word to his reader’s lives with depth and clarity.  Basing his view of the days in Genesis of creation as literal 24 hour periods, Michael explains that he believes this because other passages consistently conclude that there were six days of creation and one day of rest and make up an entire week (see Exodus 20.11; 31:17) (pg. 24).  in the natural way that you would see a week.  He sees the day-age theory as more as a tip of the hat to modern science.
I appreciate the way Michael weaves together a sense of the application of Genesis for our lives, like in his discussion of the Sabbath (23).  In talking about sin, Michael points out that sin is breaking God’s boundaries but also contains an emotional element as well (79), for sin breaks God’s hearts and it grieves him.  Overall, his presentation on…

The Bible Story Handbook

The Bible Story Handbook by John and Kim Walton
This new book by John and Kim Walton called The Bible Story Handbook is a great resource for those wanting to teach the Bible to children but are concerned about interpretation and application.  The book is divided up into 175 stories starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation that combine sections on focus, application, interpretational difficulties, context and background.  Main takeaway points are in bullet points with succinct ideas that come from the text.  What is apparent in the reading of each story is that the Walton’s took time to focus specifically in interpretation difficulties that connect with the main points of application.  In turn, what you get is a well thought out synthesis of the biblical story that is God glorifying and edifying for the church. 
One of the last sections in each biblical story that the Walton’s look at is labeled Mistakes to Avoid.  In looking at Genesis 42-50, the authors mention something that is w…

A Necessary Grief

A Necessary Grief: Essential Tools for Leadership in Bereavement Ministry by Larry J. Michael
What are the necessary tools in bereavement ministry and how do we minister well to others dealing with the downtrodden?  These questions are at the heart of Larry J. Michael’s new book called A Necessary Grief: Essential Tools for Leadership in Bereavement Ministry.  
The best part of the book is Larry’s insistence on making clear distinctions between various terminology and offering a holistic view of ministry to those going through loss. In the beginning of the book, Larry helps the reader by differentiating between grief and mourning.  Larry writes, “Grief is the inward process that involves our thoughts and feelings after experiencing loss.  Mourning is the outward process that involves the expression of our grief.  It is often referred to as “grief that has gone public (24).”  Mourning is the sign that we see all around us with morose faces, gloomy expression, and looking like a person is …