Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Biographical Bible - A Review

A Review

The Biographical Bible is not a Bible - it is not a Study Bible or a Devotional Bible.  Rather it is biographical dictionary of the major individuals found in the Christian Scriptures.  Based on solid scholarship, it also has a devotional flavor.

Each chapter is devoted to a period of history - most covering the lives of two or more Biblical characters.  For example the first three chapters cover the following characters:

Chapter 1 - Adam, Eve, and the Boys:  From Eden to the Tower of Babel
Chapter 2 - Abraham and Sarah: Joys and Tribulations of Old Age
Chapter 3 - Isaac and Rebekah: Marital Missteps and Misery

With 24 chapters, I am estimating that 75 to 100 people are discussed with varying amount of detail.  

Within those 24 chapters, the author brings to life people and events that make up Biblical history in very readable series of vignettes that allow the reader to appreciate the contribution that each has made to the Spiritual history of Israel and the Church.  

My major complaint with the book is the separation of Biblical footnotes from other references (i.e. other primary and secondary sources).  Biblical footnotes are collected in an index at the rear of the text, other references are footnoted in place.  Each chapter also includes a list of suggested works  for “Further Reading”.    

The book is a welcome reference book to the library of a pastor or teacher doing a biographical study - whether of a single individual or of a series of characters.  It stands along similar works by such authors as Alexander Whyte, James Hastings, Charles Spurgeon, and John MacArthur.  It is my hope that this book gains a wide audience and appreciation within the church.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

Memory's Door - A Review

A Review

Twice before I have chosen to not review a book.  The first time, the publisher agreed to release me from that obligation after sending a copy of the book.  The next time, I was sent only a very small sample of the book and felt that I could not give a fair and complete review based on that sample.  I notified the publisher that I would not be completing a review.  However, I liked what I did see of the sample, purchased the book for myself  and recently completed the review based on my now owning the complete book.

Once again I am choosing to prepare a less than complete review.  Having read the first six chapters of the book, I have found it difficult to follow and appreciate.  I will not be reading further.  I did read the preceding book by the same author based upon the same characters and thesis, as well as a number of other of his books, but this current effort seems less inviting than those books.   

The book is a fantasy - but unlike other Christian fantasies that I have read, it is difficult to discern the good and evil characters (at least within the brief part of the book I have read).  I did not find myself drawn to support or encourage the characters as they presented themselves.  

I may choose to finish the book at some future time, but for now, it is difficult for me to recommend this author’s current work to others.  I am sure other’s opinions with differ from mine, and my opinion may differ if I finish the book; but for now ...  

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

Friday, November 29, 2013

The CEB Study Bible - A Review

A Review

I had originally decided to not write a review of this book.  After requesting a review copy, I only received a copy of the book of Mark and one essay extracted from the book.  Though I understood the cost restrictions of sending an entire Bible to every reviewer, it was not enough to prepare a fair and complete review.  It was enough, however, to encourage this reviewer to order a copy of the complete Bible for his own use.  The complete copy warrants a good review.

This massive (2222+ pages) work is one of the best Study Bibles I have seen.  The editor is on the faculty of Fuller Seminary and has a long history of publishing in Biblical circles.  The CEB Study Bible comes in two basic versions, with and without notes on the Apocrypha.  I chose to purchase and review the edition without the Apocrypha.

As might be expected in a good Study Bible, the notes are well written.  Though leaning more toward a scholarly tone, the notes also include a bit of devotional tone as well.  Along with the notes are several sidebar articles which address specific topics in more depth.  These sidebar articles are indexed both in Biblical Order and in Alphabetical Order.  

Color images are included throughout the book, but the thinness of the pages reduces the quality of the images compared to what might be expected in a reference work of this length.  Pages of the Introductory material and the Old Testament are numbered separately from the New Testament and Concluding material.  The 21 typical Bible maps found in the last few pages of the book are numbered separately - but not with page numbers.  There is a map index.  The maps do not seem to be as well prepared or as unique as the other tools found in the text.

The introductory material consists of typical Bible helps:  Abbreviations, Table of Measures, the Hebrew Calendar, a list of the Canons of Scripture from various traditions.  This material also includes the aforementioned “Index of Sidebar Articles”.  Following the New Testament are five essays on authority and use of Scripture by the believer.  The concluding material also contains a fairly complete (for a Bible) concordance and the set of maps mentioned earlier.

The editor states that the book is designed to assist an individual or group in the understanding of the cultural and historical background.  His choice of authors from a variety of backgrounds (conservative and liberal) provide a somewhat mixed bag in terms of notes.  However, the editor’s own essay, found near the end of the book declares his own commitment to the validity of the Scriptures, as he writes (page 530):

  1. Scripture is One
  2. Scripture is Holy
  3. Scripture is Catholic
  4. Scripture is Apostolic

I probably would not recommend The CEB Study Bible as a believer’s first Study Bible (this honor would probably fall to the ESV Study Bible or the HCSB Study Bible), I would recommend that a pastor or adult Bible Study leader obtain a copy for regular reference and use.

This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Critical Reaction - A Review

A Review

Written 15 years in the future, this would be an historical novel.  But being written in the present, it stands as a warning to what is possible if access to the very real Hanford Nuclear Reservation is abused.   

The first chapter made me a bit leary of the novel that was being developed.  But the book ended up being a legal thriller parallel to those written by John Grisham, et al.  The explosions in Lab Building 5 rocked the Eastern hills of Washington State - registering on seismographs as far away as Seatlle.  But, according to the Covington Nuclear Corporation it was a minor mishap - with no real dangerous consequences.  Their scientific reports all seemed to indicate that it was so.  They, however, made no mention of the missing security guard or the radiation warning that had been issued, or the gunshot heard on that fateful night.  

How were Emily and Ryan Hart, the father daughter team (almost, anyhow) that had been handed the case weeks before it went to trial,  to handle the highly paid attorneys representing Covington Nuclear and its employees before a judge that had his back pockets being filled with the profits of Covington Nuclear.  They could not do so without some legal magic, some illegal searches, and putting their lives on the line on more than one occasion.  

The result is a finely tuned, well-written, legal thriller that will hold the reader’s attention - especially after getting through the opening chapter.   Both the courtroom drama and the action in and out of town would not let this reader put the book down.  With a free day ahead, I kept reading till nearly 4:00 AM in order to reach the books end.  

The book, as written, was not disappointing in the least.  However, being published by a Christian publisher, Bethany House, I found it surprising that there were no direct or implicit spiritual lessons in the book.  I am still uncertain whether this was a good or bad thing.  There was nothing in the story that would offend the Christian reader, but there was also nothing in the book that would draw the Christian reader into the story that would not also appeal to the secular reader.   This does not prevent the book from getting a five-star review from this reviewer.

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Start! - A Review

A Review

Start! is a wonderful devotional Bible.  Though designed as a tool for the new believers, its contents will also encourage believers of any age.  

Each Bible book begins with a brief introduction.  The text also contains a good number of smaller devotional thoughts.  For example, Psalm 23:1-6 includes the following note:

When you get right down to it, everything you need in life is found in a growing relationship with God.  When you truly know what it is to say, “The LORD is my shepherd,”  you will also be able to say, “I shall not want.”  You shall not thirst spiritually, for “He leads me beside still waters.”  You shall not want guidance, for “He leads me.”  You shall not be lonely, for “You are with me.”  You shall not want provision, for “You provide a table before me.”  You shall not want for anything, for “my cup runs over.

Additional helps include a brief essay entitled, “ESSENTIALS:  What Every Christian Needs To Know About God And Jesus.”  This is followed by a nice “Topical Index” which borrows both from the content of Scripture and the notes present in the text.  Using the New King James Version, this Bible (whether using the paperback or leather bound version) would serve as a suitable gift or tool for a believer seeking to a deeper understanding of  God and His word.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Wayfinding Bible

New Living Translation

A Review

The Wayfinding Bible might be looked at as a shortcut for reading through the whole Bible or as a structured set of readings to move believers through the key passages of Scripture allowing the reader a grounding in scriptures that they might not otherwise have.

The Bible provides three avenues for reading the major themes of the scriptures.  As explained in the introduction:

  • The “Flyover Route” provides 54 readings that  give a chronological overview of the events of the Bible.
  • The “Direct Route” provides 215 readings that allow the reader to gain a “full perspective” of the entire Bible and how it fits together.
  • The “Scenic Route” provides 386 readings through both well-known and not-so-well-known passages.

Along with the three scripture reading paths, the book provides a number of other helps.  An index is provided to all three paths - giving a title for the event described, the relevant passage from the Bible, and the page on which each milestone is located.  Along with the three reading plans, there are a number of side trips (e.g.  The Afterlife, Angels, Don’t Be Afraid, etc.).  These side trips are followed by a suggested plan to read through the Bible chronologically.  The Wayfinding Bible also provide a number of brief dictionary entries in context - another index in the back of the Bible provides a guide to finding these, if necessary.  Other helps include a list of Old Testament “Prophecies of the Messiah”, a list of Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament, and a mini-topical index (“Points of Interest”).  The final pages of the Bible are the traditional Bible maps covering both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Wayfinding Bible is a nice mixture of a devotional Bible and a study Bible.  Depending on the readers interest and readiness, it could serve either purpose.  The devotionals are at times, scholarly, theological, and devotional.  The Bible student will find their journey through scripture helped at several levels as they move through this new edition of the New Living Translation.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  I also purchased a copy prior to receiving my free copy.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

Pray the
Scriptures Bible

Edited by
Kevin Johnson

A Review

A wonderful devotional Bible that provides hints for prayer for most of the scriptures.  Most suitable for early morning or bedtime devotions, though could be used at any time a believer might want to go to the Lord in prayer.  The devotional thoughts are not long, but they are helpful in directing the believer in the use of the Scriptures as a prayer book.     

NIV Ragamuffin Bible - A Reveiw

NIV Ragamuffin Bible

A Review

The Ragamuffin Bible is a somewhat disappointing devotional Bible based on the writings and thoughts of Brennan Manning.  Throughout the book are short and very brief quotes from Manning’s previous works.  There are a few longer quotes and devotionals, but not nearly as many as one might expect from a major devotional Bible.  I would have liked to see a greater number of longer quotes compared the many short sentences or mini-paragraphs quoted.  The cover of the Bible suggests that there are three types of devotional passages:

  • 104 Devotions designed guide the reader “into a deeper connections to God and his Word”
  • 250 Reflections designed to help the reader “understand what it means to be a child of God”
  • 150 quotes that offer “thoughtful insights into God’s kingdom”

The problem for this reader is that it is difficult to determine which category the different quotations are intended to fit under.

The reflections and quotes are from Brennan Manning.  However, though the book is subtitled a “Lifetime Work from Brennan Manning”, it is unclear whether the chosen quotes and devotionals were picked out by Rev. Manning himself (who died in April 2013) or by a secondary editor in preparation for this work.  Manning is not listed as either the author or the editor of the work.  It would also appear that some of the quoted were especially prepared for this Bible (i.e. they were not borrowed from other works).

My first reaction was that there was no index - which is true to a certain extent.  However, there is a complete list of “Acknowledgements” at the rear of the Bible.  This final reference does help locate the original source for most (not all) of the quotations and devotionals.  

The Bible is highly recommended for those who are just beginning their Christian walk or for those who are looking for something new to enhance their understanding and application of God’s Word.  It will lead the believer into a deeper walk with Jesus, regardless of where they are in their faith journey.  

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.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sanction - A Review

A Review

It was not too many months ago that I read a wonderful book applying the lessons of grace to the marriage relationship.  The Grace-Filled Marriage was a non-fiction work that explored the role of grace in the lives of two people who have chosen to spend the rest of their lives together.  In Sanction, Paula Wiseman has explored the same concepts in a work of fiction that combines characters from two previous series, “The Covenant of Trust Series” and “The Foundation Series”.  

Grace, as demonstrated in this book, is needed by all members of a family, regardless of circumstances, age, or the state of their spiritual life.  Ms. Wiseman takes the lesson a step further and makes it clear that it is not just members of a family that need grace, but all members of the family of God as well.  The question that must be answered is whether the Molinsky family could learn that lesson before it falls apart?

As in her other books, Paula Wiseman has given life to her characters - each page leaving the reader wanting more.  It was true from page 1 to the last page of the book.  It appears that the author is already working on the next book exploring the on-going lives begun in “The Covenant of Trust Series” and “The Foundation Series”.  This reader cannot wait for more.

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Frame 232 - A Review

A Review

My biggest memory of the JFK assassination is the morning my dad came rushing into the rear of the house shouting, “They killed him, they killed him …”  He was not talking about the killing of John F. Kennedy, but the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby a few days later.  As a twelve year old, national news was not high on my agenda at the time.  Now, 50 years later, as we approach the 50th anniversary of those events in Dallas, TX, I am much more aware of how they altered the character of our country, both in 1963 and in the years following those terrible events.

Will Mara has written a believable thriller that begins where history leaves off.  The story begins with The Babushka Lady, Margaret Baker, sneaking away from work to observe her idol - John F. Kennedy as he made his way through Dealey Plaza.  She brought her family’s camera to the scene in order to film the day’s events.  She filmed the assassination.  But it would be 50 years before that film would see the light of day.  Her daughter, Shiela Baker, heard her hint at it on her death bed and her lawyer would hand her a key to a safe deposit box that would contain the old film.

What was on that filmed had scared her mother for 50 years - now it scared Shiela.  Who could she trust?  The FBI?  The CIA?  A lawyer she barely knew?  She would eventually turn to a famed billionaire/researcher, Jason Hammond, who had the habit of solving unsolvable puzzles - most recently the truth of Amelia Earhart.  (Note, It might be fun to read a prelude that would discuss Jason’s involvement in that puzzle, but that would be another story.)  But once she did, it would put her life and his, as well as many others in danger.  

Once started, the reader did not want to stop reading - though sleep and daily duties demanded that I do so.  The plot was realistic, the historical facts upon which the book was based came alive.  From Texas, the action flows to New Hampshire to Washington D.C. and its environs and includes a clandestine trip to Cuba.

The author’s foundational beliefs about the assassination can be found here.  More about the book can be found here.  The afterward in the book has additional information about the author’s own conclusions about the Kennedy assassination.  

I found the book intriguing - well worth the late night hours I spent reading it.  I expect most readers will as well, regardless of how familiar they are with the events of November 1963.  Perhaps, like it did me, it force other readers to learn more of the events of that fateful day - both as seen in the official reports and the numerous conspiracy theories which arose in the decades since the death of John F. Kennedy.

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