Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Good Book - A Review


A Review

The author has written a series of essays that look at 40 important chapters from the Scriptures (20 from the Old Testament and 20 from the New Testament).  The book begins each essay by providing the chapter as written in the Christian Standard Version. The essay then begins to discuss the chosen chapter that reads much like an extended sermon - with illustrations and applications.  The essay ends with a brief exercise allowing the reader to personalize the chapter.
As the reader moves through the book he or she will see the connections that make the 66 books ONE book. The book provides an overview of the scriptures - its story, its theology, and its application.
The material is suitable for both individual study or small group study. The material might also serve as the foundation of a year long preaching series - allowing a church to review the teaching of the entire Bible together.
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.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Maggie Bright - A Review

The Maggie Bright

The Maggie Bright.jpg

Tracy Groot

A Review

Nahum 2:1-2 (RSV)

The shatterer has come up against you.
Man the ramparts;
watch the road;
gird your loins;
collect all your strength.

The Maggie Bright tells a story, but that story is fiction. On the other hand, its setting is far bigger, far more important, than the story itself. As I read, I was forced to review the beginning of England’s posture in WW II - a war that seemed almost over before it began.

More would follow as America eventually joined the war, but for now England had to save itself. It was not the British Navy or the British Army that would do that job - but the people of Britain itself.

The book presents a picture of war and a picture of humanity. It is both ugly and beautiful at the same time. History unfolds around a small boat - a craft designed to hold 12 vacationers, but destined to save nearly a 100 men on those fateful days at Dunkirk.

For those who are fans of World War II, those who enjoy the heroism of men who were not born to be heroes, and for those who believe in the power of prayer, this book belongs to them. My first thought when I saw the book was, “This is better suited for my wife.”  When I read the description I was convinced that I would not like this book - I do not like war stories. But my head and my heart were drawn into the story - with tears in my eyes as I came to its end. Not all my questions were answered - but that was okay. The book was satisfying in ways I did not expect. I was forced to review my history as the book unfolded. An operation of common sailors that was expected to save 30,000 - 45,000 men would save 340,000. Another 40,000 were left behind to surrender to the Germans, to be set free only at the end of the war.

The book is a story of a boat, of a war, and of humanity, and the price they paid for the freedom we have even today.

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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Big Picture Interactive Bible: CSB - A Review


A Review

Holman Bibles has presented an attractive children’s Bible which has some difficulties in the presentation. The Christian Standard Bible hardback version, which I reviewed, is attractively designed to draw children of various ages to the scriptures. Each book contains a brief, “Kid-Friendly”, introduction including details helping the reader know to whom the book is written for, when it was written, why it was written, and a brief (a sentence or two) statement on the book’s key message. Also included in this introductory page is a list of the Bible Stories covered by the interactive features of this Bible. The body of the text includes six different types of sidebars focusing on additional key concepts:

  1. Definitions of “Big Words” or ideas found in many of the passages.
  2. Answers to “Big Questions” answered in the pages of the Bible
  3. “Christ Connections” help the reader see the role Jesus plays throughout the scriptures
  4. “Suggested Memory” highlight 100 verses that will help the reader apply the scriptures to their lives.
  5. Another section entitled “See the Big Picture” does for individual periscopes or sections what the Book Introductions do for the individual Bible Books.
  6. “Parent Connection”s is designed to help parents to “be empowered to use [the publishers] titles to engage deeper in the story with their kids. (Please note, I spent several minutes looking for an example of this kind of entry - I had a difficult time finding an example.)

These add significant value to this children’s Bible. I was disappointed however that I found no index to these features in the hardback version I was provided. A searchable e-book may overcome this limitation.

However, the very feature which is designed to make this edition stand out is poorly executed. After downloading an accompanying app from either the Apple or Android app stores, the reader can scan images within the book and have a Bible story read to them. The catch is that the reader must hold their phone or tablet camera over the picture for the entire story. Once the camera wanders away from the scanned picture, the story stops and must be restarted from the beginning. For older kids, the effort will not be difficult, but they may quickly get bored. Younger kids may have a difficult time leaving the phone focused on the picture long enough to hear the entire story. A couple of comments might be in order:

  1. If a written version of the story were included in the text, an adult or older sibling could read the story from where the automated story left off.
  2. This may only be a problem with a paper copy of this Bible - I expect that the e-book version of this Bible may not experience this handicap.

I will be giving two stars to this hardback version. I would give 2-½ stars if I could. My guess that the e-book would get a significant higher (4 stars?) rating provided it addresses the two issues mentioned above. I would hope that a future edition of the software or the printed book might address these issues. A parallel web page might also assist the parent and child to address these limitations as well.

The book’s best use for the hardback or paperback version might be in a church or public library, where the parent could borrow the Bible for a couple of weeks to see how well they and their kids can adapt to its use. A pre-school or Kindergarten Sunday School class might also find the book of value as it provides new methods for telling the Bible stories to a tech aware generation of young kids.

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, May 16, 2017

My Jesus Bible - A Review

My Jesus Bible

My Jesus Bible.cover.jpg

Text by Michael Berghof
Illustrated by Gill Guile

A Review

“My Jesus Bible” is a colorful, attractive children's Bible. The book consists of 20 stories pulled from Jesus’ life that would appeal to preschool children to 3rd or 4th graders. Given that information, this reviewer would recommend the book for children and their parents or Sunday School teachers.

I have two problems with the book. First, there seems to be some question as to what age group the book is actually designed for. Its physical design as a board book with a plastic handle would make it appear to be designed for the preschool child. The detail of the artwork would seem to appeal to the kindergartner or 1st grader. The size of the print and the writing itself would suggest that the book belongs in the hands of the older elementary school child. This final obstacle could be overcome by an older sibling or adult reading the material to a younger child or the availability of a recording to accompany the book (at this point this does not exist, as best I can tell). Though it can be said of any book, the purchaser will need to be aware of who will be using the book and how it will be used.

The second difficulty I see is a lack of Biblical references. These would be useful for both the older child and for the parents or Sunday School teachers working with child readers. It would allow the adult to familiarize himself or herself with the Biblical material from which 20 stories are drawn which becomes important because the stories are drawn from all four gospels - sometimes combining the events described by multiple authors. Having access to the underlying scriptures would prepare the adult reader to answer children’s questions and to familiarize themselves with Scripture’s content.

Do I recommend this book? YES. But only if the purchaser is aware of its limitations and willing to work with those limitations and child for whom the book is purchased.
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, May 2, 2017

Build the Altar - A Review

Build The Altar cover_.jpg

A Review

Paula Wiseman has become one of my favorite Christian fiction writers.  She is now, slowly, building a reputation for none fiction works as well.  I earlier purchased a copy of her 56 Tips To Help You Get the Most Out of Every Book in the Bible and appreciated her insights and thoughts. Her latest book at 42 pages uses the various altars found in scripture as tools for teaching about worship.

Ms. Wiseman uses five altars built by men and women from both the Old Testament to help the believer understand the purpose and role of worship in his and her life. Noah, David, Elijah, Hannah, and Mary, provide are the individuals used to build her argument.  Each chapter is divided into two sections: “Consider the Context” and “Connecting to Christ”. The first section focuses on the story of the character and the altar he or she builds. The discussion is both exegetical and practical - questions are used throughout to make the discussion personal for the reader. The second section builds parallels between the history discussed in the first section and life of a 21st-century believer. The two sections provide sufficient depth to be of interest to both the new believer and a mature believer looking for something to help renew their faith.

This book/booklet could serve as a guide to personal devotions for as short as a week or a month or longer. Another way I might find this guide useful would be to spend the first day of the week using this guide as a tool in a personal retreat setting (park, zoo, mall, etc.) and then use the remainder of the week using the insights found during that alone time to guide the reader's personal devotions for the next week. Finally, the book could serve as the foundation for a six-week study for a small group - the small group covering the material in the book, while encouraging the members to use the material to guide their devotions in the time between meetings.

However the book is used and whoever uses the book, it is likely to be a blessing to the reader.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the author for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation - A Review

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

Biblical Meditation.cover.jpg

Robert J. Morgan

A Review

Robert J. Morgan has a reputation for compiling material suitable for personal or corporate devotions. In the past these have included collections of sermons, hymn stories, and church history. This book serves a similar purpose, but also guides the reader toward developing the spiritual discipline of Biblical Meditation in his or her own life.

At one level the book is a guided look at the Biblical principle of meditation. It does this by guiding the reader through examples - both from scripture and by guiding the reader through key scripture passages. Chapters demonstrate the principles, states them explicitly, and provide opportunities for the readers to put these principles into practice.

The middle portion of the book contains suggested meditations based on each chapter. This of course requires the reader to review, again, the principles discussed in the book. Plenty of blank space is provided for the reader to make his or her own personal comments.

The book concludes by gathering the key Biblical passages used as examples throughout the book. This allows the reader to use the tools and guidelines provided throughout the book without the intrusion of the author’s commentary.

I found the authors approach helpful. Having spent much of the early years as a believer using Bible study materials developed by other publishers, this book takes that approach one step further - by using the Bible Study material to teach the reader to develop skills that can be used independently of a publisher’s pre-printed manual. Part of discipleship is teaching believers to study and apply the scriptures for themselves. This book does that well.

This reviewer would recommend this book for use as an individual’s personal study or as a unit in a small group study. It would make a handy gift for a new believer who is ready to study scripture independently. I would also recommend that it be placed on the shelves of a church library, making it available to a larger audience over time.
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, April 18, 2017

The Curious Christian - A Review

The Curious Christian

Barnabas Piper

A Review

A broad look at curiosity and the Christian, the author makes a solid case for the role curiosity plays in the life of a believer – whether the ordinary layman living a rather mundane life or the scholar who is researching questions of lasting consequences.  Questions are part of being human – whether it is in culture, the sciences, or faith.

The author explores a number of questions related to curiosity:
  1.      What are we to be curious about?
  2.      Are there topics which are out of bounds?
  3.      How do we satisfy our curiosity? 
  4.      Are there eternal consequences for our curiosity?  
My favorite chapter was actually the final chapter – “How to Live a Curious Life’ in which the author provides 12 takeaways for living the curious life. It summarizes much of what has been discussed in the earlier parts of the book.  

Ultimately, I was somewhat disappointed in the books presentation. It did not draw me in, nor was it as practical as I would have liked. Much of it consists of a description of one man’s personal journey as a curious person – perhaps of interest to some, not to this reader. This is one book I will not be adding to my permanent library.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.