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Showing posts from March, 2016

Boys Among Men

Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution by Jonathan Abrams
The debate rages on today concerning whether or not high school players should be able to jump to the NBA without going to college.  Yet, as Jonathan Abrams shows in his new book, Boys Among Men, that trend has sparked a revolution in the NBA, not just important for players, but also GM’s, coaches, and recruits.  The likes of Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant,  Tyson Chandler and Lebron James are only a few of the remarkable players who made the leap to the NBA straight out of high school. 
As a fan of basketball, my dad and I were able to see Kevin Garnett play in a high school matchup in St. Louis for Farragut Academy.  We were amazed by his athletic ability and smooth shot.  Abrams recounts the rough road that Garnett took to make it to the league in his book.  From a skinny kid without the SAT or ACT score to make it to college, Kevin’s road was tumultuous. On seeing Gar…

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward

Answering Jihad by Nabeel Qureshi
How do we address the concept of Jihad as we see it in our culture and from the lips of those espousing its proliferation?  Apologist and author Nabeel Qureshi in his new book, Answering Jihad, guides us through some very important questions and answers concerning this belief in a scintillating and no-nonsense way.  What you will find is answers to your questions about jihad, the Crusades, radical Islam and many other important beliefs and practices regarding Islam.  Born into a Muslim American family, Nabeel tells his story as well, growing up in a rather peaceful Muslim family unit and not knowing nor investigating some of the Quranic roots of the Islamic faith, some of those involving violence.
Part of my surprise in the book was learning about the roots of radical Islam and how their beliefs and ideas differ from those who rest on contemporary Muslim jurisprudence.  Nabeel writes concerning Sayyid Qutb, “Qutb saw the leaders of foreign countries as …

Core Christianity

Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story by Michael Horton
Popular author and theologian Michael Horton has written another timely book on the impact of Christian theology for the life of every Christian.  Beginning with the 4 D’s; drama, doctrine, doxology, and discipleship, Michael charts a way that integrates knowing the Christian faith, experiencing that same faith, and acting it out in the culture in which we live.  In turn, what you have in this book is a sort of apologetic of how and why theology makes sense for all of life, not just in some cerebral narrow sense.  This new book, Core Christianity, is an examination of the crucial doctrines of the Christian faith for the purpose of bringing God glory and his creatures obedience to Him.
Uniquely, Horton starts his book out with a chapter on the deity of Jesus Christ.  Drawing on the testimony of Jesus’ words, his death, the empty tomb, and eyewitness testimony about Him, Horton finishes the chapter with the question of J…

Under the Sea Holy Bible (NIrV)

Under the Sea Holy Bible (NIrV)
The Under the Sea Holy Bible (New International Reader’s Version) is Zondervan’s latest edition of the biblical text for younger readers.  The age range for this Bible is designed for students between the ages of 6-12, but is generally geared towards those with at least a 1st grade reading level or higher, thus it is most beneficial for those 8 and up.  The text of the NIrV was unfamiliar to me until I dived into this Bible version.  Certain translational issues come up that I was pleased with the rendering, for instance in Deuteronomy 6.4 the editors decided to go with, “Israel, listen to me.  The Lord is our God.  The Lord is the one and only God.”  This translational decision reflects the exclusivity of the passage that focuses on the true God of Israel, as opposed to the surrounding deities.  Further, I was also pleased that they included in Matthew 6.13 the phrase, “Keep us from sinning when we are tempted. Save us from the evil one.”  The original …

Theological Authority and the Role of Tradition

Theological Authority and the Role of Tradition
How do we understand Scriptural authority in light of the received Catholic creeds and ecumenical councils, confessions, and particular opinions of theologians?  The Scriptures are of primary importance for the believer and rest of the lot, including creeds, councils, and confessions are subsumed under this head, but how does all this work?  Oliver Crisp, in his book God Incarnation: Explorations in Christology (17), brings to the foreground these issues as he writes, 1. “Scripture is the norma normans, the principium theologiae.  It is the final arbiter of matters theological for Christians as the particular place in which God reveals himself to his people.  This is the first-order authority in all matters of Christian doctrine.
2. Catholic creeds, as defined by an ecumenical council of the Church, constitute a first-tier norma normata, which have second-order authority in matters touching Christian doctrine.  Such norms derive their autho…

Room

Room: Ways of Knowing and Seeing in Tight Spaces
My wife and I recently watched the recent film Room, a story about a young woman and her son that are trapped in an 11x11 shed.  The movie begins in the shed as Ma, played by Brie Larson, and Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay are doing life in the shed, from brushing teeth, cooking, to playing with a toy car.  Old Nick as they call him, kidnapped Ma when she was 17, and now they are under lock and key for some seven years at this, point, Jack being 5 at this point.  The movie chronicles the escape that Ma plans as she plays it off to Nick that their son is dead, all rolled up in a very large rug.  Upon escaping, the authorities find Ma and the two are reunited, yet all is not as it seems due to Jack’s entire life being lived in this 11x11 shed.
 Before the escape, Ma tries to explain to Jack about the outside world, a hammock at Grandma’s and ice cream, yet Jack cannot venture with her to these ideas, in part, because he knows no other life…

black and white bible, black and blue wife

Black and white bible, black and blue wife: My story of finding hope after domestic abuse by Ruth A. Tucker
Nobody deserves to get beat senseless by a man, much less a man who is cut from the preacher’s cloth, but this is part of Ruth A. Tucker’s story, in her new book, black and white bible, black and blue wife. She describes her experience in the introduction in this way, “During his violent rages, my ex-husband often hurled biblical texts at me, as though the principal tenet of Scripture was, “Wives, submit to you husbands…I felt trapped and feared for my life, while outwardly disguising bruises with long sleeves and clever excuses, pretending that ours was a happy marriage (14).” 
The frightening place that Ruth found herself in, in a marriage that was brimming with violence was difficult to move on from.  For one, she had to found a safe place for her son Carlton, who had seen these violent rages in living color in their home.  Yet, one of the despicable things that Ruth reference…

In a Different Key

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donovan and Caren Zucker
Shutting people up in a mental hospital with very little social interaction was one way medical professionals dealt with certain cases a long time, but things have certainly changed.  In their new book, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, authors John Donovan and Caren Zucker tell the story of autism through its first case to today’s perception of the condition.  With anecdotal information, scientific breakthroughs, and the personal stories of those like Donald, Donovan and Zucker do a wonderful job at telling the story of autism.
In the first chapter, we get a picture of Donald, the first known case of autism.  Growing up in Forest, Mississippi, Donald ‘could not tolerate even the slightest of changes to his physical surroundings.’  The hardest thing for his mother was his emotional indifference to her, including when she hugged and kissed Donald.  In chapter 3 we find that Beamon and Mary turned to Dr. Leo K…

Forty Days on the Mountain: Meditations on Knowing God

Forty Days on the Mountain: Meditations on Knowing God by Stephen Smallman
What does a seasoned pastor, an urban missionary, and a faithful teacher of God’s Word have to say to our generation?  In his new book, Forty Days on the Mountain, Pastor Stephen Smallman brings us face to face with Moses, Jesus, and the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  With a rare combination of solid interpretation of the Bible and the unique ability to get to the heart of the matter in short chapters, Smallman does a remarkable job in these meditations on knowing God.  You will be nourished spiritually in these pages but don’t think for a second that you won’t be challenged in your well-traveled faith.
On Day 3 Stephen looks at Moses’ meeting with God at the Burning Bush (Ex. 3.1-15).  He notes that it was God’s initiative that in placing the burning bush before Moses and subsequently calling Moses toward God’s presence.  Smallman writes, “This initiative on the part of God is the pattern throughout …
“The circumstances of Jesus’ arrival and his programmatic opening message and conduct of ministry – all these challenges and subvert notions of power and authority, of honor-seeking and status maintenance.  And the alternative political community and discourse and alternative social practices that come into being around Jesus, symbolically enacted in inclusive, status-blending, boundary-crossing meals, are deeply countercultural.  Nevertheless, the movement, its founder, and its adherents can be characterized, not only by the narrator but also by more than one Roman judicial arbiter, as lawful, just, and posing no threat to Roman order (e.g. Pilate in Luke 23, Festus in Acts 25.25, with Agrippa in 26.30-32).  Jesus and his followers, despite radical, visionary rhetoric, actually depose no one from a physical throne; the divine realm of which they speak will reconfigure the powers of the nations – but that world re-configuring will extend into the eschatological future.  In the meanti…

A Foretaste of the Coming Kingdom

What are some features of the coming Kingdom?
Amy L. Sherman in her phenomenal book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good with a section on What Does the Rejoiced City Look Like.  This chapter examines the biblical aims of justice, shalom, peace, restoration, unity, and health.  We get a glimpse or foretaste of the coming kingdom in the book of Zechariah, specifically chapter 8, verses 16-17.  God reminds his people Israel of their obligation to do justice but also to treat each other not out of evil motives in their hearts but to do them well. The text reads,
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”
Three things are evident here in the Lord’s words to fallen Israel:
Personal holiness toward the other – The first mention of action is “Speak tr…

The Rich Young Ruler, Matthew 19, and the History of Interpretation

The Rich Young Ruler: Matthew 19 and the History of Interpretation
The story of the young rich ruler has puzzled many people for generations.  Not least is the question of wealth, money, and possessions, what does Jesus mean by commanding the young ruler to sell all his possessions and give to the poor?  None of us would counter that giving to the poor and giving up some of our earthly possessions is a bad thing.  Yet, the point revolves around “all.”  Is this story a command for both the rich young ruler and us to give up all to follow Jesus or is there another way of seeing it?  The history of interpretation of this passage is quite interesting, Frederick Dale Bruner writes,
“The History of Interpretation of the Rich Young Ruler is fascinatingly laid out in Luz (Matthew 21-28: A Commentary, Hermeneia, Vol III pp. 131-136, and can be roughly summarized like this: ( (a) The early church saw Jesus addressing all and took the text literally; rather, early on, however, as we see in the third…

David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man who Believed by Gary Wilkerson
Many men talk about changing the world but few actually do.  In this new book called David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man who Believed, we find the story of a man who grew up with few means and yet was on fire for the good news of Jesus Christ.  Gary Wilkerson, son of David Wilkerson and founder of World Challenge, an international mission organization tells the story of his father, his huge missionary spirit and the faith he passed on to his family. 
In the opening introduction, Gary writes about his father, “My father’s visions weren’t just about the transformation of real estate. He envisioned transformed lives.”  From the founding of schools in Africa to an amazing drug recovery program , David Wilkerson had an amazing vision that God could go into the impossible places of the city, including NYC, and change lives from the worst of sinners to the top businessmen.  Part of Dav…