Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reformation Study Bible Giveaway

The Reformation Study Bible is a wonderful new resource from Ligonier and Reformation Trust.  I reviewed it here.  Ligonier Ministries has graciously provided 2 Study Bibles for me to give away. You can enter the giveaway below.

Giveaway runs from April 2-9 and is limited to US and Canada due to shipping costs.

You can view features, contributors, endorsements, samples, videos, and more at the RSB website.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Comforting the Grieving

Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God's Grace in Times of LossComfort the Grieving: Ministering God's Grace in Times of Loss by Paul Tautges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is much to mourn for in this world and much grief to be endured.  This creates ample opportunities for children of God to love, help, comfort, and hurt with those who are suffering.  Being able to minister properly through these situations will benefit all involved.

Comfort the Grieving by Paul Tautges is a wonderful resource.  It is focused on the word of God and immensely practical.  While it is designed for pastors, this is a volume that will equip and encourage all believers as we fulfill our Christian obligation to “mourn with those who mourn.”  This short volume is divided into sections covering pastoral care and preaching.

Tautges encourages the reader that care for the grieving does not conclude at the memorial service and offers a helpful guide on how to make sure that those needing continued care will receive it.  He also encourages pastors, and all Christians, to take up the art of letter writing as a means of offering care and then proceeds with some practical, “how-to” advice.

While Tautges is clear those grieving need personal, one-on-one care, he does not minimize the need of care from the pulpit.  He offers a few sample sermons from funerals to offer examples of Christ-centered, sensitive, evangelistic messages to share in corporate times of grieving.

This is a volume that will help many to love and care for those around them who are hurting.  It is short and accessible and I see no reason that it should not be read by many.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Experiencing the New Birth

Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Martin Lloyd-Jones is considered, by many, one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century.  Maybe even the greatest.  This new volume from Crossway makes accessible previously unpublished sermons on John 3.  300+ pages of “The Doctor” preaching over John 3 is exactly what you would expect it to be-encouraging, challenging, and edifying.

This is a great, evangelical preacher pleading and prodding his congregation to consider Jesus, to consider their sinful state, to consider the Gospel, to repent and believe.  There is much to be praise about this volume, but the greatest commendation I can give started out as a gripe about the sermons.

Reading the sermons you could feel Lloyd-Jones’ passion.  As he encouraged his congregation to repent and believe, there was a multitude of times where he would make absolute statements.  Many of the statements could lead weaker brethren to unnecessarily struggle with their faith.  I was beginning to be troubled by these statements but then I became overwhelmingly encouraged.

I highlight that these were sermons delivered to his congregation and Lloyd-Jones as pastor comes through clearly.  As the sermons progressed, there were statements made that backed off of the implications of some of his earlier absolutes.  Or, at the very least, he clarified his position and offered qualifications on his earlier absolutes.  It is hard not to believe that a troubled congregant approached his pastor and “The Doctor” saw the need to offer treatment from the pulpit.  This is an assumption, of course, but it is not outside the realm of possibility or even probability.

Lloyd-Jones’ influence on many modern preachers can be seen in this volume.  The Lord used him in mighty ways and this volume is a treasure.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway’s Beyond the Page program.

View all my reviews


Acts (EP Study Commentaries)Acts by Guy Prentiss Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Guy Prentiss Waters is a professor at RTS Jackson and is the author of a new commentary on Acts from EP Books.  A Study Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles is a volume written for pastors and interested lay people.  You do not have to be a scholar to read this volume and reap the benefits found within.

Waters’ volume is conservative and Reformed.  Waters is a confessional Presbyterian who ministers in the PCA and teaches at a Reformed seminary.  His commentary will offer no surprises with those facts in mind.

The format of this commentary is exposition and application.  Waters explains the text, giving background and context, and then proceeds to illustrate how the truths presented effect the life of the reader.

This volume is written from the perspective that the Scriptures are the word of God and present actual history.  While it is necessary to be knowledgeable of historical criticism, it is nice to find a work that is written with the purpose of believers learning the Scriptures better and applying its truths.

A fun surprise was the fact that it is not too heavily footnoted. Since this is not meant to be an academic treatise, you are not bogged down with a deluge of external material.  

The tone of the work is devotional, not academic.  With that being said, it is not surface either.  Waters digs in order to edify the believer, not to impress the scholar.  There is not a ton of original language, but there is some.  There is not a ton of 2nd temple culture and whatnot, but there is some.

There is depth in this volume but Waters doesn’t dive into the deep end simply for the fact of showing off his lung capacity.  When Waters wades into the deep end, there is a reason.  And he guides the reader there and back.  This is a volume on Acts that all readers will benefit from and enjoy greatly.

I received a review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 27, 2015

The New Reformation Study Bible

UPDATE: Ligonier has provided 2 copies of the RSB to give away.  Giveaway runs from 4/2-4/9.  Enter here starting April 2.

     We are blessed to live in an age and society where we are virtually swimming in a sea of Bible study resources.  The amount of quality commentaries, books, lectures, sermons, study guides, courses, journals, and magazines available is staggering.  Along with those resources, study Bibles abound.  There are plenty of good ones and a few that easily qualify as great.  Over the years, one of my favorite study Bibles has been the Reformation Study Bible from Ligonier Ministry’s publishing branch, Reformation Trust.  When I heard that an updated edition was coming out, there was no decision to be made.  I would be getting one . . . at least.  I had given a donation where the incentive was a hardback copy and, due to a great response, I found myself waiting during the back-order process.  I also found myself blessed with a little extra money and the overwhelming urge to splurge for a leather-bound copy.

     Yay!  Wait, let me say it more accurately.  YAY!!  Not to throw a shoulder out of place with an excessive amount of back patting, but that was one of the greatest impulse decisions I have ever made.  And, for the record, the statistics involving my impulse decisions could not be disputed due to a small sample size.  Large sample and all, this decision was one of the best.

     So, allow me a moment to gush.  I received the Bible quickly.  So quickly, actually, that when I opened it I thought it was the hardback copy upon which I had been waiting.  Slightly disappointed, I began to unwrap.  It was my leather copy!  I was tricked by those tricksters at Reformation Trust because they had the awesomenacity to send my leather Bible in a beautiful, hard slip case.  As far as relationships go, there is much to be said about first impressions.  And this relationship began beautifully (on my end at least, I can’t vouch for the RSB’s side of this encounter.)   Seriously though, a slipcase for a leather Bible is such a blessing.  Books belong on bookshelves (when not being used, of course) and leather Bibles get beat up when stood up.  This slip case 1) is gorgeous and 2) protects my gorgeous Bible so that 3) I can enjoy the RSB that much more for that much longer. 

     That takes me to another point.  This Bible is gorgeous.  The cover looks great and seems pretty sturdy.  I am not going to bend it backwards like an Allan Bible, but it lays flat and seems like it is going to last for a good while.  I am a yapp man, and this Bible has no yapp.  It is about preferences, for sure, and you have to make choices on issues like these.  It is not a big deal by any means but, in case there is polling for the future, I vote “yapp.”

     As you open this Bible and lay it flat (love that), you see that the typeset is different from the previous edition.  I haven’t set the two side-by-side so I cannot compare directly, but I really like the new typeset.  It is pretty and it is easy to read.  What more could you want, right?  One issue that I have is this.  The cross reference is set in the center of the Bible and it is pretty far in the center.  Couple that with the small font, and it could be difficult for some with weaker eyes (not a Leah reference) to read the cross references.  I wish that the font had been a bit larger or moved slightly out of the center of the Bible.

     Back to aesthetics, there is some definite shadowing.  I highlight that it is an aesthetic issue because it does not in any way hinder the reading experience.  I would love a thicker paper and a larger font on Bible’s like these.  However, I understand that in order to provide this, we would all be carrying Bibles around that look like Jonathan Edwards pulpit Bible.  So, apart from taking a wheelbarrow to Sunday school or removing some of these tremendous resources, we will all just have to endure some shadowing.  And by "we", I mean those of us who have the time, energy, or compulsion to pick that particular nit.

     The features of the Bible are tremendous.  I have not worked through every article and every note.  I cannot speak definitively on the content other than to point to the editors and contributors and say, “Yep.”  But you can download a sample ofthese resources here and a copy of Ephesians and judge for yourself.  The book introductions are tremendous.  I love the section breakdowns.  It includes the typical introductory stuff (“typical” in no way implies “unneccesary“ or “boring”), but it also includes sections on the book’s place in the “larger story of the Bible,” how Christ is present in that particular book, and a “history of interpretation” to give some historical context of the book’s place in Church history. 

     Now, for a quick soapbox followed by a celebration.  First off, let me encourage you to treat yourself to a great book and go read Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative the next chance you get.  You will be blessed.  Now, endure me for a moment.  As we have moved away from being unified, confessional believers and moved towards a “what does the Bible mean to you” culture, we have lost a whole lot.  We would benefit greatly from grounding ourselves in the confessions and creeds of the Church.  As great as study notes are, there is so much to be learned and enjoyed from reading the creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Church.  I have wanted all of my Bibles to include these for a while.  As excited as I was to meet the slipcover when I unboxed the RSB, I was exponentially more excited when I flipped to the back and saw “The Heidelberg Cathechism” staring me in the face.  The RSB includes the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Definition of Faith, the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  While the notes, as far as I have seen, do not cross reference the standards like the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible did, it is still a blessing to have them so readily available.  And maybe, just maybe, for the next update we can have the notes linked to the Creeds and Confessions as well!
Outline and Notes

The maps and concordance sections are good.  The maps are full page, full color, and quite pretty.  The concordance is very basic and, to be honest, I don’t use the concordance in the back of Bibles any more.  With software and the internet, if I want to find a verse with a specific word or phrase I feel I am well covered.  However, it is still nice to have a basic concordance available to do a quick look-up, and that is what the RSB provides.

     As if providing a slip-cased, leather-covered, theologically-rich, study Bible was not enough, Ligonier threw in boocoodles of extra goodies.  When you register the Bible online, you get to reap the benefits of $400 worth of extra resources, including a Ligonier Connect membership for three months, a six-month Tabletalk subscription, six e-books, and eight teaching series.  I borrowed from the website to show all of the resources at the bottom.  In a world where actors messing up lines and giggling/cursing about it is considered an “extra,” it might leave the wrong impression to tag that label on these goodies.  Fight the temptation to think that “extra” means “little value,” these blessings are blessings indeed.

     There is much to like about this new edition of the Reformation Study Bible.  From cover to cover, it is a blessing.  In style and substance, it is superb.  I look forward to using this Bible, recommending this Bible, and giving this Bible as gifts to many.  The Bible is God's word and the greatest book ever written.  The Reformation Study Bible serves as a beautiful shovel to help the reader mine the depths of God's word.  I am so thankful that this resource is in print--for me, for my family, for my church, and for the Kingdom.

Here is the list from of the extras you receive with the purchase of your Study Bible


Monday, March 9, 2015

Luther on the Christian Life

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and FreedomLuther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl R. Trueman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I had to choose someone to write a work on the life and thought of Martin Luther I am not sure who I would pick...but it would be a Lutheran. Definitely a Lutheran. That's a given, right?  Thankfully, the folks at Crossway did not consult me.

I have been a fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and one on a such a character as Martin Luther was bound to be a must-read.  When I saw that celebrity author and mega-seminary professor Karl Trueman was set to write it, I spent months waiting for it to release.  I am pleased to say that it was worth the wait.

Truman's strength as an author and speaker are mirrored in the strengths of this book.  Trueman is a tremendous historian.  And while this work is not solely a biography, it is thoroughly biographical.  Trueman shows how Luther's thought applies to the Christian life by showing how Luther's thought affected Luther's own life.

Trueman is a teacher.  Not just in vocation but in gifting.  And that gifting shines through in this work.  Trueman's volume in this series is approachable and engaging.  Trueman can write for MDiv studies, he can write for colleagues with PhDs, MDs, ThDs,  and RESPECTs,  but he can also write for the interested lay person. And do so in a way that doesn't feel watered down or like the reader is missing out on the good stuff.

Trueman is also quite funny, in a Martin Lutheran sort of way. I have never understood or enjoyed Lutheran humor (in my experience it was only about coffee, songs about slinkys, or why I will be barred from eternal bliss for my membership in a Southern Baptist Church). However, Luther himself was quite funny.  As is Karl Trueman, and in much the same manner.  Luther on the Christian Life is filled with Trueman-humor and Luther-humor, for better or worse (just for clarity, I vote "better"...for the most part).

For a confessional Presbyterian to write a biographical work on Martin Luther of such quality tgat it includes a foreword from Robert Kolb and an afterword from Martin Marty is quite a feat and should be enough of an endorsement to send you sprinting to your bookmark to download a copy of it immediately.  When you do, I feel confident in saying that you will not be disappointed.

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Acts Sermon

My sermon on Acts 2:42-47 from this morning.  Some slight additions(mainly the quotes) and some polishing on grammar and punctuation...but it is still rough.  Readable though, so I figured I would post for both of my readers. :-D
Acts 2:42-47(14-47 for context)
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
            17       “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
                  that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
                  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
      and your young men shall see visions,
      and your old men shall dream dreams;
            18       even on my male servants and female servants
      in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
            19       And I will show wonders in the heavens above
      and signs on the earth below,
      blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
            20       the sun shall be turned to darkness
      and the moon to blood,
      before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
            21       And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
                  “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
      for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
            26       therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
      my flesh also will dwell in hope.
            27       For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
      or let your Holy One see corruption.
            28       You have made known to me the paths of life;
      you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
                  “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
                  “Sit at my right hand,
            35       until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:14-27)

This is the word of the Lord.  Blessed be his name.  Let’s pray. 
Almighty God,
Whose people are knit together in one holy church,
The body of Christ, our Lord:
Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment,
And to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you,
through your Son, Jesus Christ , our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook, 753)

Verse 40 moves us out of the sermon Peter is preaching and back into the narrative of Acts that Luke is recording.  When we look at a narrative passage we examine it as a narrative.  We look and see a subject, an action, and the results. Or, to put it another way, we can study it by asking and answering three basic questions.  This will not in any way exhaust the passage, but it will give us a good overall understanding of what is happening.  We can ask, “Who is this passage about?”, “What happens in this passage?”, and “What is the result from what happens in this passage?”.  Subject, Action, Result.  And this passage in Acts lends itself to this format as well as any other passage in the bible. 
First is the "Who" question? Who is this passage about?  This is simple.  Verse 42 tells us exactly who.  They.  Now, tempting as it might be to move to the next question, we might want to venture just a bit deeper than “they!”  Who is “they?”  Pronouns are used to refer to the immediately preceding nouns and in this context we see the “they” just a couple words back.  They are the souls that were added.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Shirley, I Jest!

Shirley, I JestShirley, I Jest by Cindy  Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shirley, I Jest! is a hard-hitting expose on the behind the scenes strife and drama that shows why those were not so "Happy Days" for Laverne or Shirley....just kidding.  It is not that at all.  And if that is the type of work you are looking for you will be disappointed with this great little book (maybe Dustin Diamond has something new out that could fill that gap for you).

What this book is is exactly what you would expect and exactly what you should want.  Honest, insightful, humorous. Williams is not out to throw anyone under the bus but also does not whitewash areas of struggle or conflict.

It was nice to read about here childhood and early career.  This is not a book that will take a major investment of time or energy but it is a book that please the reader, both in form and content.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Spurgeon's Sorrows

Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who suffer from depressionSpurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who suffer from depression by Zack Eswine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of those Christians I interact with the most are quick to reject the insidious “health and wealth gospel.”  For the most part, we all can see that teaching for the perverted lie that it is.  However, that doesn’t always keep us free from the bondage of a health-and-wealth lite, a “Come to Jesus and you’ll be happy, your marriage will be better, your kids will act better, your problems will fade away” teaching that is destined to fall short this side of eternity.  We may reject the notion that you can speak a Maserati into your driveway and bind the spirit of influenza, but this overly realized eschatology, this “Jesus will make your life better” gospel, has problems of its own.

One problem that even the most well-intentioned believers struggle with understanding is depression. We often do not understand it and lose patience/sympathy with those suffering with it. We are overly quick to be overly trite and are often overly unhelpful because we are overwhelmed and undertrained.   Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine has been published to help us with all of these issues and more.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows is biography meets pastoral exhortation.  In taking us through the suffering of CH Spurgeon, Eswine encourages the reader to heed the words and life of this hero of the faith.  Pastors deal with enormous emotional struggles by bearing the burdens of an entire flock and standing on the frontline of spiritual warfare.  Couple that with personal tragedy and a predisposed temperament towards melancholy and the struggle grows exponentially.   Enter Charles Spurgeon.

Eswine uses the events of Spurgeon’s life and ministry to help the reader try to understand depression, to help those with depression, and to cope with it ourselves.  This book is full of wisdom and grace and will serve the Church well.  It is short and easy to read and deserves a broad audience.  Spurgeon’s Sorrows bears the subtitle of “Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression.”  It offers that and so much more.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Behold the King of Glory

Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus ChristBehold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Russ Ramsey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am the worst at taking things for granted.  This morning I woke up in a warm house while it sleeted and snowed outside.  I had soft-boiled eggs and fresh brewed coffee for breakfast after I used our indoor bathroom.  I threw snowballs at my kids because my muscles had oxygen-rich blood flowing to them because of my defect-free heart and healthy lungs and because my nerves functioned properly due to my healthy brain and spine.  I hit the cat because I don’t throw very well.  I started my paid-for and functioning vehicle after saying goodbye to my beautiful wife and made it the 20 miles to my great job on less-than-ideal roads without incident.  It is easy to take things for granted.  Even really, really nice things.

Even really, really amazing things.  As a Christian I have found it easy to take the story of the greatest of lives for granted.  I have come to the Scriptures and the stories with a ho-hum, same-old same-old, “We’ve been here before” attitude.  My familiarity with this narrative, coupled with the residual sin that still entangles this justified sinner, has often bread a contempt of the apathetic sort.

The first time I encountered this truth it crushed me.  I never expected this story to lose the, deserved, impact it had had on my thoughts and affections.  As I have grown in my faith and endured the spiritual valleys and spiritual dryness that God uses so often for my good, I have realized that this is part and parcel of being a finite, sinful being engage in active, spiritual battles.  So, instead of lamenting my trip through the valleys, I have learned to look for ways that the Shepherd is leading and comforting me through them.
Behold the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey is a work that will be used to refresh many a weary traveler.  Ramsey takes the reader through the biblical narrative in a fresh way.  Behold the King of Glory reads like a historical fiction about the life of Christ but with an emphasis, a heavy emphasis, on the “historical.”  The historical aspect is Ramsey’s fidelity to the biblical text.  Ramsey harmonizes the Gospel accounts and presents the life of Christ in one narrative rather than four accounts.  

But there is fiction.  And this will be off-putting for some but I do not think it should be.  This is not a “search for the historical Jesus” or a veiled attack on the sufficiency of the Scriptures.  Ramsey is presenting the Scriptural portrayal of Jesus.  What he does helpful is to make explicit the implicit.  Ramsey includes in the narrative the thoughts and feelings of characters and the cultural assumptions of the time.  He gives context.  What you would normally find in the study notes of a Bible, Ramsey weaves into this narrative.  

So, we should not burden ourselves with questions like “Did Peter really think that?” or “How would we know that Thomas said that to the other disciples?” or etc... The answer is, of course, “We don’t know.”  And while it would be wrong for someone to present these sorts of speculations as the revealed word of God, Ramsey does not.  This is not a new translation.  It is not designed to supplant the Gospel, it is a supplement.  This is a teacher teaching us the word through story.  And doing it very, very well.

Behold the King of Glory reminds us of the fact that this story of God become man, this story of redemption accomplished, this story of love to the point of death, this story of victory over death actually occurred.  It happened in real time, in a real place, with real people, and accomplished real results.  God actually became man.  Jesus Christ actually tabernacled among us.  He actually taught, healed, rebuked, and performed mighty acts.  He actually died and he actually rose.  He actually ascended and will actually return again.  Ramsey reminds the reader of these truths in a way that consistently points the reader back to the Scriptures, refreshed and ready to meet the God of the universe in the pages of his revelation.    

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher

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Monday, February 23, 2015

God's Word

God's Word (Making Him Known)God's Word by Sally Michael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

God’s Word is another tremendous book in the Making Him Known series.  This volume is about teaching children about God’s Word, the Bible.  It seeks to show what the Bible is and how it functions in our entire lives.  The concepts are clearly covered and in a manner that keeps children engaged and interested.  The illustrations are nice.  They add to the lessons and do not overwhelm or distract.

As in all the other books, God’s Word includes brief instructions for parents and good starter questions to lead into times of discussion and to see where your children are with specific concepts and lessons.  What is consistently surprising about works like these is how they are able to take complex and nuanced topics and distill them for young minds.  That, in itself, is not that impressive.  But to be able to do so in a manner that retains the depth of the topic and keeps the young audience engaged and understanding is a real feat.  And it is commonplace in this volume and the others in the series.

While Sally Michael doesn’t use terms like inerrancy, inspiration, perspicuity, illumination, etc…  But, she does teach these concepts and even more and does it in a way that kids get it.  Sally Michael uses Scripture, stories, and historical anecdotes to teach about the Bible, its place in the world, and its place in our lives.  Every book in this series is a blessing, to families and to the Church as a whole and the volume, God’s Word, is as good as the rest!

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Romans 8-16 for YouRomans 8-16 for You by Timothy Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Good Book Company has consistently been a blessing to the church through the thoughtful and approachable works they publish.  The Bible for You series of short commentaries/study guides on books of the Bible is no different.  I have had the opportunity to read a few of these and have walked away from each one encouraged to study the Word of God more and edified in my love and worship of the one true God.

Timothy Keller writes this volume on Romans 8-16 after writing the companion volume on Romans 1-7.  Keller is his usual self.  His work is clear and concise and immanently readable.  I was intrigued by his handling of certain texts and spurred to greater study and clarity in areas of disagreement.  I am always put off by “missional” terminology that floods Keller’s works (see “live the Gospel”, etc.)  That being said, I have no problem recommending this book and have already gifted a copy to a good friend.

The setup of this book is especially good.  Keller goes quickly though the text and does not get bogged down in disputes and minutia.  The study questions are short and basic but serve their purpose well.  For areas of debate and concern, Keller offers a few appendices in the back of the book to dive into the deeper waters.  Separating these out like this allows a broader audience to benefit from this great work.
This is a series of books that I consistently enjoy and benefit from.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

From the Website
Written for people of every age and stage, from new believers to pastors and teachers, this flexible resource is for you to:
• READ: As a guide to this wonderful letter, helping you appreciate the great gift of righteousness with God.
• FEED: As a daily devotional to help you grow in Christ as you read and meditate on this portion of God’s word.
• LEAD: As notes to aid you in explaining, illustrating and applying Romans 8–16 as you preach or lead a Bible study.
Whoever you are, and however you use it, this is... Romans 8–16 For You

"I have always believed that at the heart of Romans 8 you have the secret to really using the gospel in your heart to change yourself in a profound way." Tim Keller
Join Dr. Timothy Keller as he opens up the second half of the book of Romans, beginning in chapter 8, helping you to get to grips with its meaning and showing how it transforms our hearts and lives today.
Combining a close attention to the detail of the text with Timothy Keller's trademark gift for clear explanation and compelling insights, this resource will both engage your mind and stir your heart.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

God Has Spoken

God Has Spoken: A History of Christian TheologyGod Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology by Gerald L. Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are not many tools that are as neglected and as important as the historical survey of whichever discipline you seek to study.  Learning how established truths came to be established is almost as important as coming to grips with the fact that there have been others who are studying what we have and there are reasons why the understood/assumed aspects are often understood and assumed.

Theology is a discipline that is ripe with “personal truths”, “direct revelations” and “that’s always been”s.  Coupled with an unhealthy desire to remain virtually ignorant of 2000 years of development and distinctions, many people know what they believe, but not why they believe it(pretty sure I am ripping of R.C. Sproul on that one)  This survey will not help the average reader, at least not directly.  Due to its size and depth, this work will remain out of the hands of many.  That is disappointing for a couple of reasons.

Bray does a terrific job of writing this in a way that allows anyone willing to pick up and read to learn a great deal.  He is not overly technical and it is not dry.  The chapters are long….long.  The book is long….long.  I really believe that this could have been split into 3 volumes and the chapters broken up to make them much more accessible.  When your chapter has reached the 300 footnote level, you have exceeded my attention span by quite a few references.

Bray’s writing is approachable and enjoyable and he makes the topic he writes on just the same.  Many people would be challenged and encouraged, just as I was.  Bray referenced Allison’s Historical Theology early on and he made a point that, while covering the same topic, these are not the same book.  Allison’s order is systematic and very, very logical.  Bray presents the topics in their historical context.  I am still not sure which way I prefer.

Allison’s presents you with a very linear progression of specific beliefs but Bray has produced a work that gives you a sense of empathy for those going through the formalizing process.  This does a lot to limit chronological snobbery and made me put more than a few pre-labeled heretic stones back in my pocket.

I am not sure how to organize any deep thoughts on this work because it was often like drinking from a fire hose.  But, there were a few things that I really enjoyed.

*His treatment of Barth and those influenced by him was extensive and a fun read.  He also dealt pretty extensively with those who followed Barth and Process Theology.

*I enjoyed reading about how the doctrine of the Trinity developed, both in the Fathers and beyond.

*I felt his interaction with Schleirmacher was not as extensive as his legacy warrants.  But maybe I am overly influenced by Mike Horton who seemingly attributes everything negative from the 19th century on (including wars and crop failures) to Freddy S.  That might be a stretch.  Might be.  But I do think his influence was/is quite far reaching and would have enjoyed a bit more interaction with him.

*I really enjoyed reading about the Eastern Church and seeing its influence even after the Schism.  His section on the filloque has me thinking and studying about double procession and questioning what I have just assumed.

Much of what I remember is either towards the end of the book (did I mention it is long) or issues that I have been or will be studying more.  There is a ton of information to be found in this work and, although it is long, it is probably worth more than one trip through.  At the very least it will remain a good book to consult when studying different topics.

God Has Spoken is a great book.  It is an undertaking.  Reader be warned, it is 1200 pages and it is rich.  You are going to have to work through it, but you’ll find much that makes the effort worthwhile.

I received a review copy from Crossway.

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