Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How To Read The Bible Like A Seminary Professor - A Review

A Review

It was during the first day of High School Algebra class that I was introduced to the spiraling didactic method.  The idea is that the same material is repeated multiple times during the term (a year of High School Algebra), but each iteration builds on the material presented in the earlier iteration.  Until stumbling upon the current book, I had not seen this approach applied to any other discipline.  Mark Yarbrough has applied it well to study, understanding, and delivery of scripture.

The chapter titles are useless, except to make the reader curious.  On the other hand, the first chapter starts where one might expect - at the beginning. The author does this by pointing out that there are three basic steps needed to study the scripture:

1. Know It
2. Work It
3. Live It

With that beginning, the author begins in chapter two discussing the basic structure of the English Bible.  The Old Testament is divided into five sections, beginning with "the Torah" and ending with the "Minor Prophets."  The New Testament is presented as four sections, beginning with the Gospels and ending with Revelation.  Though, even this basic review is designed for the believer unfamiliar with the Scriptures, it is presented in such a manner that it serves as a helpful review for the lifelong follower of Jesus.

The next iteration of the book steps back and take a close look at each of the sections identified above.  Beginning, again, with the Old Testament (one chapter) and then the New Testament (a second chapter), the author walks through the entire Biblical history using wide brush for each of the nine sections identified in the second chapter.  Jesus is clearly presented as the Messiah, the answer to the hopes and needs of the Jewish nation as well as that of the whole world.  

Chapter six is a summary of six (coincidence?) doctrinal statements that have defined most of the church for 2000+ years.  They are not as detailed one might expect from a denominational statement of faith or from a seminary - but they are specific enough that most (all?) Christians could not find fault with them.  The author approaches each statement from three perspectives: a brief description of the doctrinal position, a short (not all-inclusive) scripture summary supporting the statement, and a short discussion on the ramifications of the position for the Christian - both in terms of theology and in terms of living the Christian life.  

The next ten or so chapters present the procedures for "working the text,"  in other words, how to do Bible Study.  The material may be too detailed for the new believer, but too general for the established Christian.  Regardless, there is material of value to the Christian grounded in the Scriptures and help that will require rereading (multiple times) for those just beginning the Christian journey.  Questions directly linked to Bible Study (e.g. what to look for when reading the text for the first time) and indirectly linked to Bible Study (e.g. what translation or translations will I want to use as I study the Scriptures).  Tools for making accurate observations, interpretations, and applications are included in these chapters.  Again, material is sufficiently deep to be of interest to both the new and experienced student of the Bible.  The author also makes room for the different genre that comprise the scripture - narrative, poetry, letters, and prophecy, providing guiding questions for understanding the content of each genre.

As a book about hermeneutics, this book stands out because it focuses on the Scriptures rather than the preacher.  From page one, it wants the reader to change because of his or interaction with Scripture - it is not so much about preparing the preacher, but about how the Scripture can and will change the preacher.  

The book would fit well in the library of any serious Christian.  It could be used as an undergraduate text in hermeneutics or as an ancillary text for a graduate level course in seminary.  The book would also serve well as a refresher for the pastor or Christian professor seeking to revitalize his or her time in the Bible.  My prayer is that each reader will feel the desire to dig deeper, to learn more, and become more like the Savior as they read and apply the book's content.

This e-book was supplied as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The reviews are mine alone.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Madam President - A Review

A Review

The first woman President of the United States is faced with a crisis with the impact of September 11, 2001.  Five cities, New York, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles, have each been hit with one or more bombs designed to kill and destroy major city landmarks.  Coming together are members of President Charlotte Kramer and her cabinet - with the Secretary of Defense being flown home on an emergency flight from the Middle East.

Most of the book focuses on the 24 hours leading up to and immediately following the explosions that rocked the country.  The final few chapters take a few minutes to reflect back on the events of the following year.  Not unlike the events of September 11, this tragedy, that claimed lives, families, and national heroes, would not be forgotten and buried.

The book left an emotion mark on this reader as he waded through the events that led up to the bombings and that followed their execution.  Whether it was the Press Secretary, the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of Staff, or the President herself, and their families, the day’s events were not just a national tragedy, but also an individual one for many in Washington DC.

The author made it clear that the President is human, not super-human.  He or she will be hit with the same emotions that hit the general public, though they may be hidden behind sound bites and aides seeking to shelter the most powerful person in the world from the world’s evils.  

The story’s climax comes literally at the halfway point of the book.  Up till that point, I was almost ready to put the book down - I am glad I did not.  The rather routine day leading up to the exploding bombs seemed mundane and of little importance; but if omitted, the significance of the response of so many individuals would have been lost.  

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Lowcountry Boneyard - A Review

A Review

An interesting take on the cozy mystery genre.  Liz Talbot, a licensed Private Investigator, is asked to find Kent, the daughter of well-off Colton and Virginia Heyward. The police were convinced that she had chosen to leave home for personal reasons.  However, not having provided any clues prior to or following her departure, that scenario was not a done deal.  

Liz has lots of help - Kent’s father and mother, her grandmother, her fiance, her roommate from college all have thoughts - nobody seems to know the truth.  The most interesting source of help comes from Colleen, a guardian spirit.  There is a clear distinction between ghosts and guardian spirits.  

“The distinction, according to Colleen, was that guardian spirits had passed to the next world and been sent back with work to do.  Ghosts were the lingering spirits of the dead who had yet to cross over to the next life.”  

I felt like I was reading the memoirs of the 2005-2010 TV drama, Ghost Whisperer.”  Colleen adds little to the story itself, though she occasionally steps into the open to help Liz with some brainstorming or to serendipitously keep her or her family from finding themselves in serious danger.

Though this is the third book in what is (currently) scheduled to be a four-book set, the lack of having read the previous two novels did not seem to distract from my enjoyment of this book.  I would not recommend this book to the committed Christian, but if one is willing to set aside a small bit of reality, the reader might find enjoyment in this book as a late night read around the fireplace.  After all, Colleen is not a scary ghost, but she is a ghost.  

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NIV Proclamation Bible - A Review

NIV Proclamation Bible


Lee Gatiss

in collaboration with
The Proclamation Trust

A Review

I like reviewing Study Bibles. Because of that I requested the opportunity to review NIV Proclamation Bible. Shortly after doing that, I found that the sponsoring organization came out of the Anglican Reformed movement – a world away from this Wesleyan pastor. I wondered what I had walked into.

My fears were unfounded. What the book offers to the Bible student are tools every Bible reader needs. What is omitted are the tools that would mark this Bible as being clearly “Reformed” in nature. The result is a well-designed book that will assist any Bible student in his or her search for truth.

  1. This edition begins with 10 essays that introduce the Bible and the tools that will help a student of the Bible in understanding, learning, and teaching the truth of God's word. Though written by reformed scholars, the essays themselves are sufficiently general in nature that they would help all, even the experienced Bible reader, dig deeper into the Scriptures.
  2. Each book includes a one to two page introduction – including a helpful teaching outline that could be use by a preacher, Sunday School teacher, small group leader, in preparing a lesson or series of lessons on a specific book. Each introduction also includes a brief list of suggested commentaries for each book allowing for further study. In addition, each book introduction is signed by its author allowing the reader to know its source and to evaluate its content.
  3. The Bible text contains single-column cross-references.
  4. A nice concordance and 14 standard Bible maps are included at the rear of the book.
  1. There are no study notes in the body of the text. With an ample opportunity to add a Reformed perspective to the volume, they have chosen not to do so.
  2. Along with no study notes, there are no references for further study of the text.
  3. The words of Christ are not in Red. For some, this would be an oversight. For others, myself included, this gives this edition of the Bible greater value.
Timothy Keller states, “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.” I would disagree – but not because of the book's content, but because it does not have the content which I might expect to find in a well-done study Bible. Having said this, the rich collection of cross-references and helpful Bible book introductions belongs on the desk of many a preacher, teacher, or student. I am glad to have it in my collection of Bible Study tools.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Think, Act, Be Like Jesus - A Review

Think Act Be Like Jesus cover.jpg

A Review

It was in January 2015 that I wrote a five-star review for Believe: Living the Story of the Bible To Become Like Jesus.  This month I received a companion volume that adds to the value of the original book.  

As a companion, the current work  follows the same outline as the original work. However, the author makes little comparisons between the two books other than to hint that they are both designed to help us on the journey to becoming more like Jesus. Both texts leave me anticipating what I will learn and how I will change as I move through their individual or collective contents.  Casual observation suggests that Believe is more closely tied to the Biblical text, while Think, Act, Be Like Jesus is more closely tied to the Christians personal life and what God expects from that life. That is not to say, the two books do not serve some of the same purposes.  The first book focuses on the scripture allowing the reader to dig into their content and discover for him or herself what they expect from the believer.  The second book focuses on the believer’s responsibility by asking more questions that will direct the readers thoughts toward a helpful path.

There are three ways these two books could be used to help the believer grow into the Jesus kind of person:

  1. Use the two books together, either as an individual or a small group setting - they do complement each other and the reader will be challenged by using the two in tandem.
  2. Use Believe in a classroom or structured setting.  Its heavy dependence on scripture (using either the embedded NIV or another translation) would certainly allow the student to draw their own conclusions as they seek to grow into the person Jesus would have them be.
  3. Use Think, Act, Be Like Jesus in a small group setting.  Its more directive approach would lead toward helpful discussion as a group of believers seeks to become more like Jesus.  

Having said that, either book could be used individually or in a group setting - but the above expresses how I might consider using the books. The teacher or small group leader would be well-served by having both volumes available in planning the course studies.  I continue to give both books, individually and collectively, a five-star review.  

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Battlestar Galactica Volume 2: The Adama Gambit - A Review

Battlestar Galactica

Volume 2: The Adama Gambit

Battlestar Galaxtica Cover.jpg

Dan Abnett (Author), Robert Place Napton (Author),
Deitrich Smith (Artist), Cezar Razek (Artist), Aneke (Artist),
Kewbar Baal (Artist), Livio Ramondelli (Artist)

A Review

I walked away from Graphic Novels (nee Comic Books) over 50 years ago.  I never expected to return.  However, over the last three years as I have found myself becoming a professional book reviewer, I have again picked up some fun Graphic Novels.  Battlestar Galactica is just the latest in my more recent venture into the venue. Again, I was not disappointed.

The current story has the fleet being chased by the Cylons into a new galaxy - with strange physical and psychological effects.  Commander Adama and his leadership team must protect the fleet from both antagonists. In the process, Commander Adama nearly gives up his command position - a roll the entire fleet needs him to hold.

The graphics are well-done, though they do not fit well onto my 7” tablet’s screen.  I used an 8.9” screen tablet and was satisfied with the results.  Of course, these problems are of no concern when using a paper copy of the book. The plot held my attention as I made my way through the 226 pages of excitement and extended covers included at the end of the book.  

Has it been 50 years since you last looked at a Graphic Novel or Comic Book, it might be fun to take a look at what is now available? 

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

When Lies Crumble - A Review

When Lies Crumble

When Lies Crumble - Cover.jpg

Alan  Cupp

A Review

The first in a series of books centering on Private Investigator Carter Mays.  If this book represents the quality of the books to come, it should be an exciting series.  The feel of the book is one of a PI series which could have been written 50 or 60 years ago with its romance, gangland murders, and crime families.

Sadly, I almost chose to stop reading after two or three chapters - the initial chapters seemed to have a somewhat stilted, immature writing style.  The writing improved through the last two-thirds of the book - and the climax made waiting worth the time spent reading the book.  It is this small hiccup that allows me to give this only a four-star review.

Hired by the young woman whose fiance has disappeared, unhired by her father, and rehired again by the father, Carter Mays must wade through the ethical issues of serving multiple clients with distinct motives for finding the young man.  Emotionally, the book served as a roller coaster ride as the author/reader begins to weave the characters and motives into a gripping story.  The surprising climax comes as the characters in the story find their lives falling apart; however, Carter cannot rebuild what they have spent a lifetime destroying.

Though a bit darker than the typical Henery Press book, it will still hold the readers attention. Do not open this book expecting the usual humor that typically accompanies a Henery Press book; yet, the book is exciting and worth the late night hours I spent reading this past week.  I expect the same would be true for other readers as well.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.