Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Missed Mission of the Great Commission - A Review

The Missed Mission of
The Great Commission

eberly Great Commission.jpg
George Eberly

A Review

A week ago I found myself in trouble. A Facebook acquaintance (he was not even a Facebook friend at the time) asked how to go about marketing a book he had written. Being a book reviewer, I suggested getting book reviews. Now, George Eberly is not dumb, so he reminds me that I am the only book reviewer that he knows and asks me, “Would you like to review my book?” Oops! I barely know George. I know even less about the book. How am I supposed to know if I “would like to review” his book? Now, I am also not dumb, so I reply, “I don’t know if I would like to, but I would be willing to give it a shot.” I did remind George that according to one source, I only review 85% of the books I receive for review. This is considered a reasonable response rate (80% is the suggested minimum). I also reminded him that I do not give good reviews to all the books I receive - I have given books anywhere from 1-star (once or twice wishing I could give 0-stars, but that is not allowed) to 5-star ratings. The IRS does not allow me to accept a free book for review unless I am allowed to review it unconditionally - George Eberly was going to have to take a chance. And he did.

It was two to three hours later that I received an electronic version of George Eberly’s book. I was careful as I first looked at the book - after all, an unknown book from an unknown author could be very good, disappointing, or just plain offensive. I had no need to be afraid of The Missed Mission of The Great Commission. I began to read - within an hour I had read the Introduction and the first two chapters. I was ready to answer George’s original question, “Would you like to read my book?”  In a personal note, I replied, “George - I can now answer your question. I have read the intro and the first two chapters of the book, and I want to read AND review it!  What I have read so far is well-written and attention grabbing. Thank you for sharing and I will be looking forward to finishing it.”  A week later, after spending time reading and preparing last week’s sermon, here is my review.

George Eberly has written a book that presents a paradigm for growing mature disciples within the church - whether we are discussing the local church, the global church, or the many para-church ministries of the Christian Church. The book allows the believer to move from evangelism, to conversion, to discipleship, to servanthood. The author has done this by providing a Biblical foundation that is well-documented, and practical (especially chapter 10). Much of what he has written is illustrated by anecdotes from his own ministry and the ministry of others.

My only concern with the book is a sense that the author thinks that the paradigm he is presenting is expected of every church. Alarm bells go off in my head when there is any type of expectation that every believer, that every Christian ministry, every church, is to have the same experience and practice. Though the author does leave room for individualization, I am left with the feeling that he thinks every church (however you define that) should fit this mold. The author does not strike this attitude hard or often, but it does creep into his narrative. Hence, I see this as a weakness, not a failure, of the book.

Having said that, I am convinced that pastors, pastoral candidates, and local church and denominational leaders, should take the time to read this book. The concepts are important for the healthy growth of the church. There is both truth and practical help that can easily be fit into multiple levels of ministry within the church. Both professional pastors and the lay leadership of the local church will be challenged to help grow believers who will be ready to serve the current generation of believers and the next.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the author for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Whole Bible Story - A Review

The Whole Bible Story

Whole Bible Story Cover.jpg

William H. Marty

A Review
The story, not the text, of scripture, is the focus of this book. The story is well-written and will assist the student to understand the events which provide the foundation upon which the Sacred Scriptures are built. The writing is terse, but clear. Presented as a history book rather than scripture, the story is easy to read and follow. This new edition of the text is supplemented with an assortment of images - both black and white and color images.  Here is a sample of the text from Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In its original state the earth was empty and dark. Like a bird watching over its young, the Spirit of God hovered over the watery surface of the earth. God created light on day one. On day two, he placed the sky between the earth and the heavens. He made land and vegetation on the third day, and on the fourth day, he put the stars, the sun, and the moon in place. On day five, God filled the sky with birds and the oceans with creatures of the sea. God created animals on the sixth day, and finally, last but not least, he made humankind in his image. (This means they were like God in certain ways.) God enriched their lives by providing them food to eat and giving them responsibility for the rest of creation. When God finished his work, he saw that everything he had made was perfect. There was absolutely no defect in his creation. He rested on the seventh day and set it apart as a day to rest and to remember that God is the creator of the universe.

The author’s stated purpose is, “that it will motivate people to read the Bible.” My major concern with the book is that it does not refer the reader back to the scriptures. Each chapter begins with a summary of the “Main Characters” and the “Settings” of the events detailed in that chapter - but no reference to the scriptures from which the story is being told. This is true for text found at the opening of chapters, footnotes, sidebars, or in an index.  

For the lay person, college student, or seminary student, this book would provide a useful tool to review the story of scripture; however, the lacking scripture references do reduce its value. This could be corrected with an online index or prepared insert to be downloaded by the reader.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Does Consent Really Mean? - A Review

What Does Consent Really Mean?

What Does Consent Really Mean - cover.jpg

Pete Wallis, Joseph Wilkins, Thalia Wallis

A Review

Note this book is not aimed at a Christian audience per se. Christians may be, some will be, offended by the topics covered here.  However, it may open doors for communication for parents, friends, and classrooms.

The authors provide a guide toward understanding what many mean by “Consent” in today’s secular culture. They take no stand on the ethical, moral, or faith based decisions involved in giving consent, only on how to recognize and accept consent or the lack thereof.  Same gender issues are addressed, but not strongly - almost as afterthoughts.

Though the reader is given ideas on how to recognize consent, little is said how to respond when consent is not granted. In other words, nothing specific is said about what “No” really means. Another missing topic is the use of alcohol or drugs to limit inhibitions. This topic rises to the service, not as the result of a date rape drug being administered; but as a current criminal case makes it way through the California court system when a guy was seduced by an inebriated girl of similar age. The courts ruled that he was not guilty - a legal decision, not a moral one.

Finally, no mention is made of the issue of consent within a marriage or other established relationship - it is as if the issue of consent only must be addressed by those still dating.

The book provides a beginning point for discussions, it opens the door for conversation; but suggestions need to be made to discuss the missing elements of consent, not covered directly by the authors.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, July 31, 2017

NIV Devotional Bibles for Teen Guys and Teen Girls - A Review

NIV, Revolution Bible
The Bible for Teen Guys

NIV Revolution Bible.cover.jpg
NIV, True Images Bible
The Bible for Teen Girls

NIV True Images Bible.cover.jpg


A Review

Zondervan has created a pair of devotional Bibles for guys and girls. Though marketed together, they are aimed (?) at separate audience based on gender. They both contain helpful comments and inviting full-color pages designed to draw the reader into the text. The comments in each are generous throughout.

Though each contains an abundance of comments, the comments are not parallel or complements of each other. In fact, many of the comments in both are not as gender specific as the titles might suggest. A great majority of the comments could be included in a gender neutral Bible designed for a general teen readership. It is this reviewer’s opinion, that by not seeing the comments in both Bibles, significant and important teaching will be missed.

The most gender specific features of each edition are the colors chosen for the comments and sidebars. The guys’ Bible uses a light blue background for comments, the girls’ Bible uses a light (in some cases, too light) pink background for comments. Also, the full-color pages in the “True Images Bible” are also obviously aimed at a traditional feminine audience. The same is not true for the “Revolution Bible”; these full-color notes are truly gender neutral.

This reviewer would recommend that copies of both Bibles be made available to members of all genders - either through a library (one copy of each) or a classroom collection of Bibles (with multiple copies of each edition being available for the whole class) so that comments from both editions can be read by all. Of course, parents will need to choose the Bible most appropriate for their own child, assuming they will be purchasing a single copy for their child.
This review is based on free copies provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Irving L. Jensen Collection - A Review

Irving L. Jensen Collection

Jensen Collection Cover.jpg

Irving L. Jensen

A Review

Faithlife and the family of Irving L. Jensen have provided a great collection of 24 Bible Study tools aimed at students with a wide range of previous exposure to the Scripture.

For those just beginning their study of scripture, whether a new believer or a long time member of the Family of God but with little experience in personal study, there a number of individual book studies. Some these (e.g. the study on the Prison Epistles) provide introductory material before jumping into a series of questions which will help the reader dig, understand, and apply, the Scriptures to their own life. Along with books on individual books, there are also titles that cover larger portions of scripture. For example, The Layman’s Bible Study Notebook provides a set of workbooks covering the whole New Testament.  Simply Understanding the Bible includes an introduction to every book of the Bible (alas, it does not provide study questions to guide the student into deeper study). Except for this book, there appears to be less than complete coverage of the Old Testament, A number of key OT book are covered, but there are some key OT books which seem to be missed (e.g. Isaiah). As noted earlier, the New Testament is covered quite well - both with titles covering multiple Bible books and those focusing on a single book (e.g. each of the gospels has an individual book).

There are also tools for those who are ready to dig in for themselves. At the gentler end of the spectrum is Jensen’s Enjoy Your Bible: Making the Most of Your Time With God’s Word.  The ten chapters (130 pages) begin to introduce the reader to the tools needed to begin a habit of personal inductive Bible Study. For those wanting a bit more in-depth discussion of the inductive Bible Study Method, Jensen’s  Independent Bible Study provides 6 chapters plus appendices with more details on developing a personal Bible Study habit.

Besides the book studies, there are also three character studies within the collection (David, Ruth, and Mary).  

I and other users of the LOGOS Bible Study Library waited a long time to gain access to this material - at times even wondering if it would make it into publication. When the Jensen family became involved in the process, things moved along more quickly. This collection of books is provided for use with LOGOS Bible Software - available at various price ranges, including a Basic version available with a few key books for free.

These books are certainly suitable for individual study.  Though instructions are included within the collection for using the material with a small group or Sunday School class, it is not clear to me how this can be easily accomplished given that the individual books are mostly out of print (updated editions from another publisher are available for several of the titles). Some clarification from LOGOS or the copyright holder may be needed.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

CSB Apologetics Study Bible For Students - A Review


A Review

Over the last few months, I have begun to appreciate the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), beginning with a couple of reviews published in February and March of 2017. It is quickly becoming my favorite pulpit Bible. I am becoming increasingly excited as Study Bibles are becoming available based around the CSB.

CSB Apologetics Study Bible For Students is the first such text to cross my path. As I approached this Study Bible, I had two questions. How does it compare to the original version of the Apologetics Study Bible and how does it compare to earlier editions of the Apologetics Study Bible For Students.  

First, how does the CSB Apologetics Study Bible For Students compare to the original Apologetics Study Bible? There are two obvious differences. The footnotes are basically the same between the original version and the student version, except that Bible references have been updated to use the CSB. I did not check every footnote in all 66 books of the Bible, but I did check those in Philippians (my current preaching text) and in the Psalms (for an example from the Old Testament). It is possible that translation decisions did not allow every footnote to use a CSB reference to support a footnoted comment.

The second difference is that sidebar material has been substantially revised from the original to the student version. In some cases this means that similar topics have merely been rewritten by a different author; in other cases, new material has been added.that will be appreciated by students (though non-students might find some of these new comments of help - e.g. the article on pornography).

The differences between the previous edition of the Apologetics Study Bible For Students and CSB Apologetics Study Bible For Students are less dramatic - mostly accounting for the change to using the CSB. As would be expected, textual footnotes are those found in the CSB rather than the original translation.

The bottom line is this, pastors and libraries might consider having both a copy of the original Apologetics Study Bible and a copy of the CSB Apologetics Study Bible For Students. The differences in the sidebars would make having both editions available an important addition to a library - personal or otherwise.  

Students might be advised to keep a copy of the CSB Apologetics Study Bible For Students handy while in school (or until starting seminary). They can consider adding the Apologetics Study Bible (or other helpful Study Bibles) to their personal library as they are given additional responsibility in the church.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Perish From The Earth - A Review

Perish From The Earth

Perish From The Earth Cover.jpg

Jonathan F. Putnam

A Review

Blending a great deal of history with a believable, though fictional, story, takes talent and skill. Jonathan F. Putnam had done just that.

My acquaintance with Lincoln began and ended with his Presidency. “Perish From The Earth” takes the reader back to an earlier time in Lincoln’s career when he served as a circuit riding lawyer in Illinois. We are introduced to his best friend and roommate from that era, Joshua Speed. Similarly, we are introduced to Lincoln’s co-workers, prosecutors, and judges. Others from that era that make an appearance also have their roots in the history along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The mid-19th-century river boat culture takes on a life of its own as the story develops. Wrapped in a mystery and a courtroom scene in the town of Alton, IL, worthy of a great 20th-century writer, the who, what, where, and why’s, that make this story engrossing, readable, and exciting.  

For any fan of Lincoln, for any fan of historical fiction, and for any fan of great courtroom drama, this book should quickly become a must read. The author hints that more may be coming - I do not want to wait, I want more now!
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.