Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2017

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…

The Ecumenism of Beauty Edited by Timothy Verdon

The Ecumenism of Beauty


How do we make sense of visual arts in the church and in the history of the Christian church?  There has been a bit of rediscovery of this question and answers to the issue by both Catholics and Protestants, Orthodox and Anglican.  This new book, The Ecumenism of Beauty, edited by Timothy Verdon captures the essence of seeing the beauty of art in the church as a vehicle to understand God's character and man's genius.  The various contributors to this volume write with a vigor and wisdom that is rarely seen, commenting on aesthetics in Calvin, the artist as contemplative, and the way in which the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts bears together both the simplicity and brilliance of art in a house of worship.  Although the book is short, it is rich with pictures of art past and present, and the writing points our gaze toward the heavens as we contemplate both God and beauty.  With a learned introduction by Monsignor Timothy Verdon,…

Pursued by Lisa Harris

Pursued by Lisa Harris


This new book in The Nikki Boyd Files series by Lisa Harris is a thrilling, mind -bending journey into the work of Missing Persons Detective Nikki Boyd, who in the opening salvo goes on a plane ride that will change the course of her life.  In Pursued, author Lisa Harris untangles various  webs of money, murder, and dangerous criminal activity that come to light as Detective Boyd can't seem to put down her knack for finding out the right clues to the case.  This is my first knack at the Nikki Boyd files books and I was clearly impressed.  What was notable about the book was its fast paced and detailed approach to solving the case of the missing lady who was to testify in a court case.  Further, there was enough detail in the book to keep you on the edge of your seat but not too many extraneous details or unnecessary fleshing out of the characters in lewd or inappropriate ways. 


The plot seemed to move along seamlessly as Nikki picks up clue after clue afte…

Misfit Faith

Misfit Faith: Confessions of a Drunk Ex-Pastor by Jason J. Stellman
I usually go for a book with a good title and this one has quite an edgy and provocative title.  To go along with it, the author at one time was a PCA pastor, a denomination I belong to and wanted to see what he had to say about life in ministry.  This new book, Misfit Faith, is a story of someone who still wrestles with the faith and was pulled toward the Roman Catholic Church from being a church planting pastor in Seattle prior to his change.  The book is a critique of those who have their theology all lined, ducks in a row, and more a conversation about how to have doubts and still believe.  In the book, Jason explains the first segment of the Apostle’s Creed concerning believing in God the Father and how this changes the way we should think about faith.
In the opening chapters, Jason seeks to draw the implications of God as Father in relationship to the Calvinist system that he says minimized this idea and promoted …

Kingdom Family Devotional

Kingdom Family Devotional by Tony Evans and Jonathan Evans
This new devotional by pastor Tony Evans and his son, Jonathan, is a wonderful exploration of what it means to be kingdom minded people in God’s world.  With Scripture, illustrations and stories, Tony and Jonathan get to the heart of loving God and loving people in these short entries.  What I enjoyed most about the book was the way in which the entries got straight to the heart of issues rather than skirting around the central idea.  Further, the daily devotions are rooted in the gospel and are applicable to life in an everyday way.
One of my favorite entries was on respect.  The authors write, “God wants us to treat family members as nicely as we would the president.  Why? Because each of us has been made in the image of God.”  There is value in people and Tony gives us the freedom to be real with people, look them in the eye and address them with respect rather than a disrespectful informality.  The authors go in the week to …

Murder is No Accident

Murder is No Accident: A Hidden Springs Mystery by A.H. Gabhart

This the first book by A.H. Gabhart, known as Ann H. Gabhart to many, that I've read and it was a fast paced and intriguing work of fiction.  One of the key elements of the story is the cantankerous nature of the characters in the story, from Deputy Michael Keane, to Aunt Lindy, and Reece, each member at some point in the story rubs each other wrongly and suspicions remain.  In any good story, there must be a bit of uneasiness in the plot that moves the story along.  I found this book to be amusing and easy to follow, and the clues were there to keep you guessing.

The story centers around a small town that holds within it the Chandler residence, a mansion that is on the market, an owner of the house, the aged Miss Fonda, the real estate agent Geraldine Harper, sheriff Michael Keane and other characters.  The plot thickens when a body is found at the bottom of the steps to the tower room.  One of the amusing scenes in …

Between Midnight and Dawn

Between Midnight and Dawn, Compiled by Sarah Arthur
This vibrant and rich collection of stories, poems, and prayers that connects Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide is a wonderful compilation.  Called Between Midnight and Dawn, compiled by Sarah Arthur, each an Opening Prayer, Scriptures, Literary Readings (both contemporary and older), personal prayer and reflections, including a closing prayer at the end.  Beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding in Eastertide Week 7, the collection spans a broad range of themes from repentance to consolation and deliverance.  The entries are rich with interesting stories and beautiful poems, that each reader is sure to find something that catches their spirit. 
In the first entry on Ash Wednesday, included is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story called the The Minister’s Black Veil in which Reverend Mr. Hooper came to the pulpit one Sunday wearing a black veil.  The crowd bemused that he had gone mad or weren’t even sure it was him.  But Hawthorne says o…

Still Pilgrim

Still Pilgrim: Poems by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell
There is a kind of distance that you often gauge when I read poetry, the feeling that you’d like to experience what the poet describes but you don’t know if you ever will.  Descriptions sometimes fall by the way because they are either too elevated in nature or too base in feeling, the way a movie can bring together both elements.  Yet, in certain cases, poems hit one squarely in the heart, because the experiences land so universally and the emotions too real to forget.  Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s new collection of poems, Still Pilgrim, captures both the events of every life and the feelings that flow from them in a beautiful and captivating way.
In the Still Pilgrim Sings to Her Child Angela pens;
But you are you, my mystery, my gray-eyed boy, my history Embedded in your body made of love. This the moment I still dream of. Though twenty years have come and gone I sing to you, and you’re my song.
The beauty of birth, of bearing a child made from G…

The Spirituality of Paul

The Spirituality of Paul by Leslie T. Hardin
Robust and dense argumentation, heavy theological jargon, and weighty social issues, are a few of the things that come to mind when we think of the apostle Paul.  Yet, key to his development as a follower of Christ is his life in the Spirit, his spiritual life.  Professor Leslie T. Hardin steps in with a book entitled The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life, a work focused on the prayer, proclamation, and worship of Paul given to Christ. 
Leslie explores the context of prayer in the life of Paul by looking at his writings.  In the writings of Paul, Leslie finds an enormous freedom in prayer that also looks at the kind of prayer that Paul called others to carry out.  He writes, “Paul will not prayer degenerate into simple asking, though, as if God were a spiritual vending machine.  The language of “thanksgiving” is the most frequent of all the prayer vocabulary in Paul’s epistles. (47)  His prayers of thanks were…

The Hum of Angels

The Hum of Angels by Scot McKnight

There is an ever-present commentary running through the lives of many we meet about angels.  Whether it's guardian angels, our relationship to angels when we die, or some other inquiry about angelic beings, we are somewhat obsessed with these divine creations.  Yet, we often have misguided and wrongheaded beliefs and thoughts about angels that give more credence to New Age thought than to a biblical picture of angels.  In steps Professor Scot McKnight, who are written many books on the New Testament, Jesus, and the church.  His new book, The Hum of Angels, presents an engaging portrait of angels in the Bible, and how every Christian should relate to these beings.

Scot opens his book with a foray into providing a rational or defense of belief in angels.  Often, ordinary folks don't want to tell anyone they've seen an angel or had an angelic visitation because they might be thought of as stupid or ignorant.  Scot writes, "Most people w…

Esubscription for Lent and Easter

Paraclete Press has just launched a new Esubscription service that sends daily devotional emails to your inbox. These messages tell the story, history, and theology of both Leng and Easter. Taken from two books, God with Us and According to Your Mercy, these authors give readers a broad glimpse into the heart of each liturgical season. Take a look at http://www.paracletepress.com/Products/7107/god-for-us-esubscription.aspx

Love Him Anyway

Love Him Anyway by Abby Banks The story of Abby and Jason Banks is a remarkable one at that.  From finding out their 3rd child Wyatt is paralyzed to both Abby and Jason having different surgeries, including Austin having two hernias removed, the road of life has been a bumpy one at that.  Yet, there are these glimpses of grace in this book that are evident throughout the pages.  It would be easy to go through the life of this family and become jaded, cynical, and downright pessimistic about life and God, but they have been able to work through much pain in faith, not letting those around them be pushed away by their experiences. One moment of God’s grace shining through when Abby writes, “A short time later, the doctor called Jason and me into the counseling room. The surgery was over, and Austin had done great. The doctor said she did indeed have two hernias that needed to be repaired. He told us they would call us back shortly to be with Austin in recovery, but first there was a nurse…