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Showing posts from 2016

The Christmas Carol

The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (original 1843 illustrations)
Every Christmas season the same carols are sung and the usually stories are told, especially those surrounding the nativity story.  Yet, as many people hearken back to a time before, some stories retain their never ending power.  Such a story as The Christmas Carol, by the brilliant English writer Charles Dickens, is just one of those enduring stories.  Paraclete Press has done a wonderful job in reprinting this story with the original 1843 illustrations that came with the original printing.  
Why does this story stretch through the decades while remaining such an important work?  For one, Dickens paints the portrait of Ebeneezer Scrooge as a dour soul who is hell-bent on profit and weary of any kindness as man easily identifiable (in a most universal way).  Early in the story, Scrooge brings to the foreground characteristics of a such a man.  Dickens writes, "Oh!  But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindsto…

Know the Word Study Bible (NKJV)

NKJV Know the Word Study Bible

This concise study Bible is a welcome addition to the ever growing
number of study Bibles on the market.  What makes this Bible unique is
the free flowing ease of reading that comes with the format of the
text.  Further, the study notes aid in bringing out the original
meaning of the Hebrew and Greek text while also giving the reader
important historical markers for further study.  Overall, the compact
nature of the Bible, the excellent study notes and the larger font
size of the actual biblical text make this Bible a great book for any
student of God’s Word.

One of the key features of this text is the red insight portions
inserted below the text as a way of gaining more wisdom about

C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity

C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity by Paul McCusker
Author Paul McCusker gets into the crisis that spurned the conversion of C.S. Lews to the Christian faith but also the influences that led him there in his book, C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity: The Crisis that Created a Classic.  Drawing on the rich resources from Lewis’ youth, the turbulence of the war (WWII) and the influence of friends, McCusker draws out the picture of Lewis in a quite extraordinary way.  The beauty of such a work is that you get Lewis in all his varied array speaking about his own life and McCusker drawing together the details.
Lewis grew up in rooms full of books and immersed himself in the affairs of the imagination in a very real and tangible way.  Led to study under some of the notable atheists of his time, it was his imagination that drew him to study those whose work brimmed with religious optimism and hope.  McCusker writes, “The First War nearly clinched Jack’s conviction that God, if he existed, wasn’t “g…

Performance free living

Saving the saved by Bryan Loritts
Pastor Bryan Loritts in his new book, Saving the Saved, brings to the foreground two twin themes that will help readers in their journey of faith; one, the kingdom of this world is a meritocracy and two, Jesus kicked this meritocracy to the curb and calls us his children, not dependent upon all of our vain efforts.  Bryan speaks to those who have fallen on hard times and those who are smooth smiling, his goal is to “refuse to have our joy tethered to the external events of life or to our personal strivings to measure up.” (22)
One short sentence sums up what Bryan is trying to teach us in chapter one.  After looking at God’s loving kindness and mercy, Bryan writes, “God didn’t wait for me to get cleaned up before he loved me…Performance-free, unshakeable love.” (39)  The quote he looks to is from Romans 5:8 and Bryan focuses on the “while we were yet sinners,” the mercy and love of God goes down deep to save us while we are enmity with God.  It’s a joy …

A Reader's Guide the LXX

Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, Edited by Karen Jobes
This new guide to the Greek Old Testament is a great boon to anyone studying the Scriptures in their original languages.This new work is aimed at those students who have a good grasp of Greek already but need help in discerning unusual and necessary vocabulary.Karen Jobes, author of commentaries on 1 Peter, Esther and a book already on the Septuagint has given us a rich work here.Combining the work of various contributors, Discovering the Septuagint allows the reader to mine the depths of the LXX while seeking aid when words are used 25x or less in the text.The authors give us the parsing of each word and offer some explanatory definitions when things remain unclear.
Jesse Arlen and Kimberly Carlton point out a fascinating feature in their discussion of the superscriptions the psalms.They write, “…the superscription found above the psalms would have had liturgical use, and may be original to the OG translation…Pietersma …

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

The Beginner's Bible: NIrV

The Beginner’s Bible: Holy Bible (NIRV)
My 2nd grader loves to read and so I thought taking a review of this new NIRV Bible, designed at a 3rd grade reading level would be just the thing for her.  The Bible is based upon the NIV but does not follow it word for word, rather, it takes some of the longer phrasing and words and brings conciseness and brevity to the page.  This Bible is specifically designed for younger readers and those just jumping into Bible reading at any age.  The updated changes of the newest NIV version are also incorporated into the text of the NIrV. 
Some of the wording in the text of the NIrV helps readers get a vision of the importance of the point an author is trying to make.  In Genesis 3, as God gives the curse to Adam, Moses writes, “You will have to work hard and sweat a lot to produce the food you eat (Gen. 3:19).”  The notion of tilling the ground and working the soil for food demands a great amount of sweat and this is indication of the hard work that far…

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

NKJV Study Bible by Thomas Nelson

NKJV Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Growing up with the NIV, the NKJV was not a bible I was familiar with.  This new NKJV Study Bible takes all of the features of the Thomas Nelson Study Bible and makes them better.  Right out of the box I noticed that the Bible was considerably lighter than most study bibles I have read.  Further, the text font was much larger than most study editions, although I’m not quite sure of the size. The aquamarine color was a great touch and the Bible was finely put together, enduring the wear of many coming years of use.
Why is this Bible worth the purchase?  First, the study notes were great for extra handling of particular confusing and messy areas of Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments.  Yet, the study notes aren’t an obstruction to the reading of the biblical text.  Clearly, the editors have taken great care in making the text stand out and the notes illuminate certain themes and areas of Scripture.  Second, the NKJV takes into account all t…

NIV faith and work Bible

NIV faith and work Bible, Edited by David H. Kim
How does one integrate their faith with the working world?  What is the proper way a Christian lives in the chaotic state of white collar, blue collar, and no collar work?  The new faith and work Bible (NIV) is a Bible designed to help those through the path of work and faith.  Edited by David H. Kim, who is a Pastor of Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC (think Tim Keller), David is uniquely equipped to help guide those wanting a more cohesive understanding of faith amidst work.
One of the fascinating features of this NIV faith and work Bible is doctrinal sections that bring together theological truths with personal stories of those in different kinds of workforces.  In the section on The Fall, the section reads, “Not only is our work marked by toil and frustration as a result of the fall, it is also tainted by our particular sins (13-14).”  In this same section, a civil service employee explains his role in helping the…

Getting Religion

Getting Religion: Faith, Culture and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama by Kenneth L. Woodward
A book spanning faith, culture and politics from a noted Newsweek Religion reporter for many years is bound to stir up the pot.  And yet, Kenneth Woodward’s new book, Getting Religion, is as much about understanding how far we’ve come in unlearning overly dogmatic things and relearning what it means to bring faith to the public square.  However overwhelming the task may be to cover such a broad swath of themes in a lengthy numbers of years, this book is really a good synthesis of the last 50 or so years.
One of the key movements that took place that affected faith and culture in the past century was Vatican II.  Woodward remarks that his interest was mainly in the foundation of the reforms that were past, especially the books and thinkers that helped shaped the changes (Rahner and others).  One thing that Woodward pointed out was that, “I was deeply impressed by the mutual…

True Faith and Allegiance

True Faith and Allegiance: A Story of Service and Sacrifice in War and Peace by Alberto Gonzales
As the 80th Attorney General of the United States under the mantle of President George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales ran into many difficult situations including the post 9/11 terror that ensued after the Twin Towers were bombed.  Gonzales has a long history with Bush, all the way back to their days in the state of Texas, where Gonzales was Secretary of State and then a Supreme Court Justice.  This new book, True Faith and Allegiance, tells the story of Gonzales’ time with the President as he served him as Attorney General.
One particularly chilling part of the book was when Gonazalez went to the Huntsville death chamber to attend a midnight execution.  Alberto was concerned for the chaplain who had counseled and prayed with so many of the inmates right before their execution.  After hearing about the inmates confessing to the crime they committed to the chaplain, Gonzales writes, “And then he r…

Letter of Henri Nouwen

Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen
The immensity of Henri Nouwen’s faith is only overshadowed by the joyful spirit of his care for others.  In this collection of Henri’s letters, written to friends, family, and many people seeking wise counsel, Henri gives his beautiful life as an example to help others in their struggles.  The wonderful truth is that in Henri’s lifetime he received 16,000 pieces of correspondence to which he replied to each and every one. 
The genuineness of these letters brings out Henri’s personality and his amazing ability to speak so honestly about himself in these letters.  After speaking at a conference, Henri writes to his friend Ed who asked him to come, “But don’t feel guilty about any of this.  I just tell you this as a friend.  It was a good fatigue, a good emptiness and a good exhaustion.  I did not feel angry or anything like that.  In fact I felt grateful to you, and all the kind people.  But I also realized that this should …

Full Tank Life

Full Tank Life by Ben Tankard
Pastor and musician Ben Tankard has seen the dark times of life and experienced much light in his life, and in his new book, Full Tank Life, he shares his wisdom on following our dreams and making them work for us.  The book combines personal stories, wisdom, biblical insights, and common practical sense to give the reader encouragement in their quest for living a full tank life.  Ben tells his story in the book of beginning a new genre of music, namely gospel jazz, and how it was hard getting people to buy into the genre, some seeing it as too jazzy, others not enough gospel music, and yet her persisted in his efforts, even selling tapes out of the back of his car.
One of the things I appreciated about the book was Ben’s excellent way of taking big concepts such as destiny, and helping the reader practically see how this works in real life.  He writes, “Make a “vision map” that captures words, images, colors, and textures that reflect your dreams…The goal …