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Showing posts from 2017

The Action Storybook BIble

The Action Storybook Bible

This graphic illustrated Bible (done by Sergio Cariello) with text from the NIV and Catherine DeVries, gives the reader a real sense of the narrative of the Bible and the characters involved in the various stories.  The book highlights fifteen key stories or episodes in the Bible and provides beautiful illustrations that highlight the facial expressions, activity, and geography of the biblical passages that the authors are engaging.  Overall, the book has an alarming effect of drawing the reader into the story, calling readers to read the stories in the Bible in their entirety and learning the message of God's redemption in Christ.

In the message of Jonah, the authors and illustrator give us a picture of what it meant for God to call Jonah to Nineveh and his response.  The comment, "When God talks to a person and tells him to do something, don't you think he would go ahead and do it?  Not Jonah!"  The grimace on Jonah's face is telling…

Sacred Dying Journal: Reflections on Embracing the End of Life

Sacred Dying Journal by Megory Anderson and The Sacred Dying Foundation

This journal deals with a very important theme in life, the end of life.  Megory, a scholar, educator, and end of life writer has been down the road of understanding death and its coming to every person on this earth well.  The journal is designed for those nearing the end of their life or those who want to get a better grasp on thinking through the questions surrounding end of life issues and journaling about them. The purpose is to get people to think through difficult moments, not feeling constrained to answer every question in order but to wrestle with issues such as ways to heal, belief in afterlife, the kinds of activities you want people to engage in while your dying such as reading, music, talking.  
One of the most significant things about the journal was not just its engaging the big philosophical and religious issues surrounding death like the afterlife, God, and our eternal home, but also more practica…

The Last Girl by Nadia Murad

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, And my Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad

Western readers don't really know and many don't care to know what goes on inside those who claim the name of the Islamic State.  In this gripping account of captivity, fighting, and release, Nadia Murad recounts her story as a member of the Yazidi's and her plight that ran toe to toe with these militants.  Rather than rehash the historical record of the uprising of the Islamic State, Nadia tells her story of living in Iraq, growing up in a large family, and seeking to toil for a living in the dry and hot climate of Kocho in northern Iraq.

What was striking to me was the way Nadia described her people, the Yazidis.  Nadia tells the story by stating, "Yazidis believe that before God made man, he created seven divine beings, often called angels,  who were manifestations of himself.  After forming the universe from the pieces of a broken pearl-like sphere, God sent his chief Angel…

This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World

This Child of Faith by Sophfronia Scott & Tain Gregory

This new book by novelist and writer Sophfronia Scott and her son Tain Gregory bring together their experiences of faith amidst certain grief and joy, through the connection of relationships and family.  The book is wonderful in that it captures the voice of Sophfronia with the actual words of Tain sprinkled throughout the pages.  You get the feeling also that Tain is being real honest in the book about his time at church, his mom and dad, but also some real tough experiences. 

Sophfronia's father stopped going to church at one point and this left, possibly over money issues.  Her experience of faith was more attuned to the movies, such giants as The Ten Commandments and Jesus of Nazareth.  She writes of her prayer life in high school with insight saying, "It seemed to me this is what you went to God for - the big things, not basketball games.  I don't recall praying for my college applications...Only in areas of…

Mark Through Old Testament Eyes

Mark Through Old Testament Eyes by Andrew T. Le Peau

This new series by Kregel Academic called Through Old Testament Eyes is a quite unique commentary design.  This volume by Andrew T. Le Peau, former longtime associate publisher for InterVarsity Press, on Mark's Gospel is a welcome addition to the many good commentaries on Mark.  The contribution that Andrew's commentary makes to many valuable resources is his running commentary on how the individual verses and larger units of Mark cohere with the story of Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures.  Not just outlining the historical and geographical markers that coincide with the ministry of Jesus, but how the OT shapes Mark's entire narrative.

In the interaction with Jesus and Jairus' daughter in Mark 5, we Jesus responding to the ruler of the synagogue saying, "Do nor fear, only believe."  Le Peau writes, "The exhortation to not be afraid is often associated with the them of the Divine Warrior, that God wi…

Almost Entirely

Almost Entirely: Poems by Jennifer Wallace
This is a wonderful time of year for poetry.  The frigid air outside beckoning you indoors to snuggle up with a good work, these new poems by Jennifer Wallace entitled Almost Entirely hit the spot for me.  Funny, amusing, deep, and yet penetrating the emotions, these poems give you a real sense of what it means to live in this rancorous world.
I’m constantly drawn to poetry that sheds light on anger and pet peeves.  One poem, I Don’t Like People; Animals, Too, Are an Imposition brings out the rage of certain situations. Jennifer writes,
“My neighbor is mean as a chainsaw.  Last week he routed the run-off from his yard to mine.  He doesn’t give a damn about his dog, who craps in everyone’s garden but his own.”
Chainsaws are annoying and hearing one just makes you downright irritated.  Jennifer brings out the sense in her words that there is a big circle around this neighbor and he doesn’t care who is on the outside of his domain.  She tries to do…

Grace, All of Grace

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges Few people have done a mighty work of shaping my view of Christian faith and theology like the late Jerry Bridges.This book originally was written in 1981 and it still packs a strong punch of sound biblical teaching on grace alongside a healthy view of progressive sanctification.Jerry Bridges is most known for his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, but this book, Transforming Grace is a work of great value as well.The whole crux of the book is an answer to the question; now that we are saved by grace, how do we live the Christian life?Countering the view that somehow grace is not needed or unnecessary for the daily Christian’s life, Jerry points us back to grace as fundamental to our life on Earth. In fleshing out what it means for the law of God to remain in effect for the Christian today, Jerry does an excellent job at explaining the difference between legalism and grace.He writes, “Under a sense of legalism, obedience is done with a view to meriting …

Calling out into the Mess

To Light a Fire on the Earthy: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age by Robert L. Barron with John L. Allen Jr.
Knowing John L. Allen Jr. from previous reporting on the Catholic tradition, I am immediately excited about this book engaging Father Robert L Barron.  Somewhat of an internet sensation on YouTube and through the production of a series of videos on Catholicism, Father Barron has gotten a wide audience of viewers and readers in a way unseen since the time of Fulton J. Sheen.  The subtitle of the book was also appealing since it is the gospel that I believe that is central to the whole edifice of Christianity, both in belief and in practice. 
Part of the unique voice coming from Father Barron is related to his being raise in the post conciliar time where experimentation and feeling were part and parcel of the Catholic experience.  Yet, this kind of deep emotional weight left a kind of fully orbed understanding of the behind. After hearing much about social justice, Barron was…

A Prophets Point of View

Peter J. Gentry, How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets
With our noses in the good book, we often plow through the Bible’s pages with the same focus, reading Romans like we read Ezekiel.  And yet, as Dr. Gentry so helpfully explains, we miss the point if we read the prophets like an epistle or gospel.  There is so much going on that we need to be aware of and pay attention to.  In his new book, How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets, Dr. Peter J. Gentry, author Kingdom Through Covenant helps us read the prophets well, paying attention to the various kinds of literary forms and theological message they have for us.
In the opening chapter, Peter alerts to the central theme of these OT prophets, “Everything in the prophets is based upon the covenant made between God and Israel during the exodus from Egypt, especially…as it is found in the book of Deuteronomy.” Covenant keeping and covenant breaking is part and parcel of the whole prophetic corpus, but this plays of part…

You Want me to Think?

How to Think by Alan Jacobs
In this frenetic world of information and gadgetry, we often promote arguments and ideas without properly thinking about what we are saying and how we are saying it.  Alan Jacobs, Professor at Baylor University’s Honors Program, gives us a pungent dose of sane wisdom on how to think in almost any given situation, including when we want to slam our opponents head against the wall with some overblown illogical and unfair verbal argument and need help.  Drawing from C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Daniel Kahneman and others, Alan paints a broad picture of how unthinking brings the whole society down and how clear thinking aided by emotion can bring back a sense of flourishing among human beings.
Jacobs posits in the introduction of the book that it is not so much a matter of rational or irrational thinking that is the problem, but something altogether different.  He writes, “For me, the fundamental problem we have may best be described as an orientation of the wil…

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes.: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes by Roger Hutchison

Taking a look at the digital copy of this book allowed me to look at the striking art inside the book, and its connection to the words of the page that were focusing on loss.  Looking at the physical copy of the book even brings to life more the staggering similarity that the words and pain have together on the page.  The focus here is how certain colors express the sentiments of those who have lost a loved one.  I did not think that I would relate too well to this book until two days ago, as we lost our little boy, who was only 17 weeks old.  The pain is palpable and yet the pages of this book give me good reason to think of my son with a sense of pride and hope.

Roger writes, "You are a shooting star. Your light trails across the heavens.  I blinked and you were gone."  We were full of anticipation at the first and second ultrasounds, and there was the picture of our little boy Jackson, his developing face and little …

Can You See Anything Now?

Can You See Anything Now?  A Novel by Katherine James
Upon seeing this book on my doorstep for the first time, I was very intrigued by the cover, the fact that this was the author’s first novel, and that Paraclete Press was back publishing fiction, alongside their beautiful and profound religious literature.  This book, Can You See Anything Now is a novel of intersecting characters whose lives illuminate the themes of friendship, deep brokenness, and immense suffering.  Though this book was sure to bring one to both tears and anger, its message was intertwined between hope and despair, a novel that caused the reader to look deeply into the road each character walked.
One of the main characters of the book, Margie, was the mother of Noel, and the wife of Nick, the counselor.  Margie walks on the precipice of despair, suffering deeply from depression and meaninglessness.  Yet, part of the beauty of the book is the way Katherine draws Margie out of her loneliness through Etta.  Both painte…

Foundations of Drawing

As a father to a little daughter who loves to draw, engage in creative imaginative painting efforts, and altogether enjoys designing dog clothes, my interest was piqued by this fascinating book called Foundations of Drawing by Al Gury.  I was glad to receive this book and even more happy to read through the history of how drawing, illuminating, and model drawing was part of many cultures, making alive the world that we see everywhere.  Al Gury is a wise guide, holdingthe chair of the painting department at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  Here are a few of the most fascinating points of the book for me.

One, Al Gury gets into the nitty gritty world of the Medieval period which book illumination and scriptoria, where monks would work at studying, copying, and translating ancient works, even works written papyrus, for their preservation.  Unique for the artistic mind, there were elegant illustrations and decorations done in pen and ink, and colored with water-…

The Message that Never Grows Old

The Message that Never Grows Old In the messiness that is the Christian life, believers tend to major on the minutiae, the pet issues that develop in the heat of debate and render our witness as shrouded in mystery.  We develop intricate points as to what exactly happens to the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, how God’s election takes place temporally, and when exactly Christ will return for his church.  Although the larger issues of the Lord’s Supper, election, and Christ’s return are hugely important for the Christian to understand and believe within his heart and mind, the details of how all these things work often escape our view.  Calvin called entering into these matters speculation.  In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin writes,
“Not to take too long, let us remember here, as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to hold to one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even to seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has b…

Feasting at the Table

The Life Giving Table by Sally Clarkson

The table has always been a lively place that I remember growing up with my parents, brother and sister.  Now, with my own wife and daughter, dinner conversations can turn to amazing, funny, and profound topics.  Sally Clarkson, in her new book, The Life Giving Table shares her heart and experience of table meals, expressing her hopes that the table can become a place of joy and tears, fellowship, feasting, and laughter.

The vision that Sally has comes forth in the first chapter on Tableology.  She writes, “When we sit at our tables, we’re not just an aggregate of individual family members eating and drinking to stay alive; we’re a congregation of communing souls hungering and thirsting to experience the goodness and beauty of the life God has designed just for us” (12).  The table is a sign of God’s beauty and grace, for his communing church.  She writes later about Jesus, “But Jesus didn’t simply use food as a tool in His ministry.  He made it…

Forgiveness and Justice

Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach by Dr. Bryan Maier
Forgiveness at its core involves two people committed to naming and dealing with wrongdoing in a holistic way.  Yet, often we too easily think that a mere ‘I’m sorry’ will suffice for the one who has been hurt by sin and evil.  Dr. Bryan Maier comes to grips with the full weight of forgiveness and justice in his new book entitled Forgiveness and Justice: Christian Approach.  Wanting to engage to engage the best of secular counselors and psychologists but desiring to chart a course that stands firm on the Scriptures, this book is a great work at the intersection of counseling, psychology, and biblical theology. 
In cataloging the levels in which sin causes the most damage, Bryan gets to the basic message of how sin acts upon its victims.  Victims can fall prey to a dangerous situation in which they believe that “there is no such thing as justice after all or a judge who can enforce the law,” thereby increasing the chanc…