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Showing posts from 2017

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…

The Old Testament Book by Book

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised, Edited by Miles Pelt
This collection of essays on the books of the Old Testament is a wonderful introduction to gaining wisdom and understanding into the First Testament.  The authors, professors from RTS, from John Currid to Richard Pratt and many more, combine to grant the reader a look into the key theological and literary features of the 39 books of the Old Testament.  With standard categories elucidating the author, setting of the book, and theology, each chapter is full of solid readings of the texts.
With illuminating work and a particular eye toward the details of Genesis, Professor John Currid presents the reader with a focused and clear portrait of the first book of the Bible.  I appreciated John’s keen insight into the concept of the image of God in Genesis.  He writes, “Originally the word meant “something cut from an object,” as, for example, a piece of clay cut from a sculpture.16 In such a case…

Idols and 1 Corinthians 10

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.  15I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  16Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  17Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.  18Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  19Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 
22Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Idols are not a thing of the past.  We often scoff at the insistence that idols …

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd
Students in high school and college have for years been given Jonathan Edwards’ sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to read.  With much frustration and repulsion toward the view of God as an angry judge and tyrant, Brian Zahnd in his new book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God seeks to bring a new view of God to his readers.  Desiring to set for a living concept of God that is rooted in Jesus, Brian wants to get to the heart of the good news for all people.
Early on in the first chapter of the book, Brian recounts how both Edwards’ work and the fundamentalist tracks of J.T. Chick, he asks the question, “does this portrait of God look like Jesus…?”  Brian does evidence the violent actions and depictions of God in the OT, but he submits that this picture of God should be subordinate to the ‘revelation of God seen in Jesus’ (14).  God’s spirit and attitude toward men and women created by him is one of love and mercy, n…

Jesus Eats with Sinners

Eats with Sinners: Loving Like Jesus by Arron Chambers

Realizing that Jesus ate with sinners, emulating and acting out his lifestyle among the sinners of our society is another thing altogether.  Yet, as Pastor Arron Chambers notes, "We must believe people can change" In his new book, Eats with Sinners, Arron outlines the ministry of Jesus as a paradigm for the way Christians should share the the good news with others. Thinking outside the box is Arron's way, and in many times he challenges the status quo of the church with a focus on people coming into the kingdom.  This is a real insightful book with many challenging stories and ideas.

After stating many reasons why both church buildings and clothing can be a obstruction for people coming into the church and hearing the gospel, Arron shares a story that captures the heart of Jesus.  He writes, "One of the most bonding things you can do for your own children is to care about their friends.  Through these dinners we…

Change Hurts

Learning Change by Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor

This is a unique book in that it explores change within the church setting through personal renewal of its pastors and members.  The idea of the book was set forth through an initiative by Western Seminary, RCA, and CRCNA congregations.  The leaders sought to develop a program that would help transformational learning to take place on a large scale in each congregations.  With the help of Jim and Trisha, this initiative became the Ridder Church Renewal process which 126 leaders completed the program of which 128 began the process.  The goal was to combine teaching, multi-day retreats and guidance that would help leaders navigate change in their respective churches (10-12).

Brain Stone opens the book in chapter 1 by reflecting on the dreams we have in our life, from childhood to today.  One of the significant points in this chapter is Brian's development of mission in life of Jesus and God's calling on our life.  He writes, &q…

Bible Sleuth: New Testament

Bible Sleuth: New Testament Illustrated by Jose Perez Montero

A million different red and white striped Waldo's cover the page and you are supposed to find the one with a ski cap and green glasses?  The series of books devoted to finding Waldo were both fun and darn near frustrating at the same time.  The same idea holds here for the new book, Bible Sleuth: New Testament illustrated by Jose Perez Montero.  The book looks at particularly significant themes int he NT such as the birth of Jesus and the Beatitudes and also includes a synopsis of what's going on in the story.  The illustrations and the characters that you are supposed to find are very large and that is good, because you don't want to hunt for hours for Mary.

The illustrations in the book were both fascinating and humorous.  On the section where The Apostles Heals many, you have Roman guards looking sternly at the people while a man in the past confined to a wheelchair is pushing his chair down the way careenin…

Women in the Reformation

Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

The luminary figures of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer, and Melancthon are just a few of the men who shaped the Reformation of religion and society in the 15-16th centuries.  Left in the dustbin of history are often those people who are at home raising families and praying for husbands, leading others to change through writing, and keeping safe those who would continue the Reformation.  In her new book, Reformation Women, Rebecca VanDoodewaard focuses in those women who particularly impacted the continuance of the Reformation started by the likes of Luther and others.

Rebecca begins her book looking at the life of Anna Reinhard, the  wife of Zwingli.  She cared for her husband in a most beautiful manner and was a woman of humility and virtue. Rebecca writes, "Anna welcomed large numbers of her husband's friends and entertained guests..The upper chancellor of Silesia …

How Music Works by David Byrne

Music makes people dance and this is one reason why I have always loved listening and playing music from a young child until now.  Yet, there is many truths and ideas about how music happens both in history and in record making that I don't understand.  David Byrne, in his new book, How Music Works, takes us on a journey inside both the background of music from long ago to present but also gives us the lowdown on how the music industry works, both behind the scenes and in promotion and advertising.  Collaborating with the Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and others, David has experienced the highs and lows of music in all its forms, from jazz to rock, soul to publishing.

One of the most astonishing features early on in the book was Byrne's understanding of symphonic and classical music went from an all-inclusive event with much response from the audience to a more peaceful and immobile activity from the audience.  He writes,"With classical music, not only did the venues change…

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

The regular printing of sermons is something that was commonplace in Civil War days and in the early 20th century, but rarely do we now find sermons in printed form that are deep with wisdom and interesting also.One notable exception to this truth is the new book of sermons entitled As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson, author of the Message.While much is praised about Peterson’s work on ministry and spiritual theology, these edited sermons bring the best of his deep knowledge of Scripture and love of God to the foreground.In fact, after reading the book one can imagine Eugene as a scholar and a poet, who fuses the loftiness of scholarship with the real needs of the people.
In writing about the relationship between Balaam and Balak in the OT, Peterson brings us to the fountain of humor.He writes, “Hilarity is integral to Christian pilgrimage.There is no question that being a Christian involves us in many sorrows, many struggles, sober hours of repentance and meditation.But ther…