Book Reviews

Book Review

By Kim Mazey

Morris, Dr. Scott and the Church Health Center,40 Days to Better Living Optimal Health. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing,
Inc. 2011. 176 pp.

This newest book by Dr. Morris is the first in a series of books on health and wellness that he and his staff at the Church Health Center have collaborated on. They use the 7-Step Model for Healthy Living as a guide and offer practical advice and clear, manageable activities to guide people toward life changes in attitudes and actions. Each day’s advice and activities build upon each other. The steps start out small and simple to do. I found nothing difficult in this book to do; in fact, it is practical common sense
things we should have been doing all along.

The areas of focus are nutrition, friends and family, emotional life, work, movement, medical care, and faith life. There are morning reflections and evening wrap-ups. The spaces in the book for documenting plans, progress and perspectives may not be enough for some people to record their thoughts. I would recommend a separate notebook for this. I also do not think
that this book alone would help some people. I think that it can be a great supplement to another weight management or health management program where accountability is part of the program. Still, if this book were read alone it would get people thinking about the changes needed to live a healthy lifestyle.

I appreciated the scripture included each day as well as the personal stories from people who have struggled with health issues and then made the necessary changes to improve their lives. Overall I enjoyed and was glad I read this book.

I received a free paperback copy of the book as compensation for this review.

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Book Review

By Kim Mazey        April 30, 2011

Kent, Keri Wyatt, Deeper into the Word New Testament. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2011. 247pp.

The subtitle of this book is Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament but the purpose of this book is stated in the introduction. It is “a tool to help you better understand both the words and their context so that you can engage in the spiritual discipline of the study of God’s Word.” The author states, “it is meant to be used with the Bible rather than in its own.”  Other suggestions for reading this book are as a reference, as a study guide, or as a devotional reading one chapter at a time.  The chapters are just a few pages long making this feasable.

I could see this book used as any of the above suggestions especially for someone who is not accustom to doing their own word
study.  It could serve as an example or a springboard to get you started. There is a helpful list of online study tools in the appendix at the end of the book. Learning how to and doing your own word study is something every maturing Christian should do to some degree as they are capable. This book is a great example of that.

I received a free paperback copy of the book as compensation for this review.  You can purchase this book through Bethany
House Publishers.

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Book Review: From the Library of A. W. Tozer

April 29, 2011

Bell, James Stuart. From the Library of A.W. Tozer. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers. 2011. 411 pp.

One of the first books I read as a young Christian a little over thirty years ago was, The Pursuit of God. I have reread it a few times since then. I now own and have read quite a few Tozer books and recommend him any chance I get. So I was looking forward to reading this book.

Tozer has come under some criticism in the last few years. Deserved or undeserved, I don’t really know. I do know that his writings have ministered to many people over the years and will continue to do so many more years into the future.

From the forward; Upon reflection, it occurs to me that A.W. Tozer – despite his lack of college and seminary training – has become one of the foremost educators of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Tozer has been and still is a teacher to men and women who long to know God with all their heart and soul. The Holy Spirit has called such people into that noble clan that Tozer dubbed, “the Society of the Burning Heart” (p.9).

This book will give you an idea of who helped Tozer learn and become the man of God that he was. Tozer read widely and that is
reflected in these pages. The eight chapters with selected authors and excerpts are:

  1. Worship: The Chief End of Man
  2. Prayer and Contemplation
  3. Exhortations and Prophetic Words
  4. Our Counselor: The Holy Spirit
  5. Jesus Christ: Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King
  6. Practicing the Presence of God
  7. On Christian Doctrine
  8. On Living the Christian Life

There are chapters that have author biographies, their works that excerpts were taken from and an index to make it easy to find each authors work. The introduction contains a short biography on Tozer and a reason to read the book. The book is really laid out well. It is an interesting read and it gives you excerpts from some classic Christian literature. It was worth the time spent reading through it. I received this book for free for review purposes.

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Book Review: Jesus In The Present Tense

April 25, 2011

Wiersbe, Warren W. Jesus In The Present Tense. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook. 2011. 194pp.

Warren Wiersbe is a prolific writer. This latest book has to do with the “I am” statements of Christ. The book is divided up
into twelve chapters with all but the last one covering different I am statements. The last chapter is one which encourages the reader to apply Biblical truth in their daily life.

I found the book both encouraging and helpful for some trials that I was and am going through. Particularly encouraging was chapter 10, The Neglected I Am; in which an Isaac Watts hymn is used as an illustration. I checked to see if the hymnal we used in church had changed the words used in one of the verses and it had! The last verse of At the Cross was leftout also. That verse is:

Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears,

Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt my eyes to tears.

Wiersbe writes Sincere tears and thankfulness are two marks of the spiritual believer; dry eyes and a hard heart usually belong to the nominal Christian or the worldly one. One of the most difficult things to maintain in the spiritual life is a tender heart that is burdened enough to weep and pray as well as watch and pray…………Over the years, I’ve noticed what appears to me a decline in personal gratitude among people, as though we are entitled to what others do for us; and I fear this attitude is creeping into the church. We tend to take things for granted – until we lose them! (p. 159).

Wiersbe quotes other writers throughout the book. He continues to write in a way that is both easy to read and understand. He makes practical application of spiritual truth throughout the book. I heartily recommend this book to any Christian. I received this book for review purposes and was not compensated in any other way.

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Book Review by Kim Mazey

Morris, Dr. Scott with Susan Martins Miller, Health Care You Can Live With, Discover Wholeness in Body and SpiritUhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, Inc. 2011. 254 pp.

If I could describe this book with one word it would be, “encouraging.”  I appreciated Dr. Morris’ book and as a health care worker for more than 30 years I have seen many changes in the health of the general public as well as the ways we address them.  Increasingly I have seen attitudes shift and people not take responsibility for their poor choices. I agree with Dr. Morris’ statement, “Too many of us have the attitude that it doesn’t matter how I’ve lived my life, what I eat, how many cigarettes I smoke, how long I sit on the couch. Technology can fix what happens even when I persist in unhealthy habits. I can go to the doctor, and the doctor will know how to fix the problem. And if a little technology is good, imagine what we could do with a lot of technology” (p 34). He attributes a “thirst for technology” as part of the cause of rising health care costs. He also said, “the rift between science and religion, the philosophical separation of the mind from the body, and a business model for health care added up to a battle the church chose not to fight” (p 31). These also contributed to our current state of health care. But overall he puts the responsibility for your health on your own shoulders.

The remained the book focuses on ways you can change your attitude and look at your health from a holistic view of body and spirit. It starts with his definition of health on p. 71. “Instead of the absence of disease, I see health as the presence of those elements that lead us to joy and love and drive us closer to God.” It is not all about living longer but better. I have always believed that quality is better than quantity.

He uses the virtues from Colossians 3:12-14 as the basis of how to live a balanced healthy life. He gives practical suggestions as well as real life stories for compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love.  He then introduces his Model for Healthy Living and the seven key dimensions of our body-and-spirit experience that “overlap at the core of our lives” (p 172). These seven key dimensions are nutrition, friends and family, emotional life, work, movement, medical care, and faith life.

The last chapters of this book discuss the dimensions and provide opportunity for the reader to set their own personal goals towards incorporating the virtues in their own model for healthy living. This book was positive, encouraging, and full of practical, good advice with well chosen and balanced stories of real people.

I appreciated the fact that Dr. Morris is practicing family medicine in Memphis, TN providing health care to the working poor of that area. For him medicine is a ministry and not a job.

I received a free hardback copy of the book as compensation for this review.  You can purchase this book at www.tbbmedia.com.

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Book Review: Stand Firm in the Faith, an Exposition of 2 Corinthians

January 19, 2011

Gromacki, Robert. Stand Firm in the Faith. The Woodlands, TX: Kress Christian Publications. 2002. 224pp.

I was looking forward to receiving this commentary and going through it even though I am not preaching from 2 Corinthians right now. 2 Corinthians is one of my favorite New Testament books of the Bible and one that opens up the Apostle Paul’s heart for ministry.

After the preface and introduction there are 13 chapters of exposition which are followed by a selected bibliography. The following is from the preface; This study has been designed to teach the Word of God to others. It is an attempt to make clear the meaning of the English text (King James Version) through organization, exposition, and careful usage of the Greek text. It is planned as a readable study through a nontechnical vocabulary and smooth transition from one section to another (p. vii). Included are suggestions for how to use the study for personal or group use. There are Questions for Discussion at the end of each chapter.

There is a good use of footnotes to help explain terms or the Greek language. Throughout the commentary Dr. Gromacki gives the meaning of the text and its practical application. He exhibits both the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. For the sake of this review I want to share parts of two chapters so that the reader can get an idea of the value of this commentary.

First from Chapter 4: The Glory of the Gospel Ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1-18). His outline is as follows:

I. THE PROBLEMS OF THE MINISTRY (4:1-4)

A. Emotional Weakness (4:1)

B. Faulty Motivation (4:2)

To be effective, a pastor must have integrity, faith, and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:18-19). He should be blameless (1 Tim. 3:1). He should have a “good report of all men, and of the truth itself” (III John v. 12). Paul constantly tested his motivations to make sure that they manifested these holy standards.

1. Negative goals (4:2a)

He firmly rejected three areas of faulty motivation that marked the false teachers. First, he “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.” The word for “dishonesty” means “shame” (aischune). He did not handle holy things with unclean hands or an impure heart (cf. Hag. 2:10-14)…………..

Second, he did not walk “in craftiness.” A crafty person will do anything, good or bad, to achieve his desired goal…… A godly person must use godly methods to accomplish godly results.

Third, he did not “handle the word of God deceitfully.” He did not misrepresent the gospel message to others. He told men what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. The Greek concept behind “deceit” is to catch fish with bait. He did not trick people into the kingdom of God.

2. Positive goals (4:2b)

Paul determined to manifest “the truth” regardless of the outcome…… Christ claimed to be the truth (John 14:6), and whatever is truth will conform to His manner of behavior and proclamation.

He wanted to have pure motivations both before men (“every man’s conscience”) and God (“in the sight of God”). Sincerity and purity must mark the personal relationships of the minister. (pp. 59-60)

C. Satanic Opposition (4:3-4)

This brief excerpt from chapter 4 shows the importance of personal integrity in the life of every minister. The second excerpt from chapter ten teaches the importance of knowing how to wage an effective battle.

The Defense of Paul’s Apostleship (2 Corinthians 10)

I. HIS ACTIVITIES (10:1-6)

A. He Expressed the Qualities of Christ (10:1-2a)

B. He Employed the Methods of Christ (10:2-6)

The critics charged that Paul “walked according to the flesh,” that his techniques for solving church and personal problems were selfishly motivated.

1. They were not worldly (10:3)

Paul explained the difference between walking “according to the flesh” (kata sarka) and walking “in the flesh” (en sarki). The latter merely indicates mortal existence. For example, Christ became flesh and walked as a man in the midst of men.

Paul denied that he warred according to the flesh. The word “war” is a military term, which he used to introduce the concept of spiritual conflict. The term “war” (strateuometha), transliterated as “strategy,” was used of the tactics of the general who led his army into battle. But Paul did not purpose (1:17), walk (Rom. 8:4), or live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:13). His walk was controlled by the Holy Spirit, not by the fleshly sin nature (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16).

2.      They were divinely effective (10:4-5)

He then claimed that “the weapons of our warfare were not carnal.” The word “warfare” refers to plans of strategy whereas the word “weapons” (hoopla) points to the military hardware needed to carry out the plans…. A Christian should not walk according to human plans, nor should he attempt to carry out divine plans with worldly means.

His weapons, rather, were “mighty” (dunata). They came from God and were designed to bring glory to God (“through God”). This intrinsic power came from the indwelling Holy Spirit who controlled the apostle’s life (Acts 1:8). These divine weapons achieved permanent results (“to the pulling down of strong holds”). The word “pulling down” (kathairesin) was used militarily of the destruction of fortress walls by ramming, rock throwing, and undermining.

Paul overcame opposition both at Corinth and elsewhere through the spiritual means of intercessory, tearful admonition by his presence and pen, and the compassionate appeals of his associates………..Genuine believers know the truth of this spiritual axiom: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

Paul then internalized the spiritual conflict. The real battle for a believer takes place within his soul. In his struggle to be holy, will he have victory or defeat? A victorious saint will achieve two goals. First, he will be successful in “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (10:5a)…………………….

Second, he must bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (10:5b). He must saturate his mind and will with biblical truth. He must think as Christ would think. He must act as Christ would act……….. (pp. 165-168)

These two passages have been meaningful to me in my personal devotions and studies. They were chosen to give you an idea of Dr. Gromacki’s style of exposition. If you are a pastor, teacher or small group leader this commentary would be a valuable addition to your library. Get it and use it for the glory of God.

Dr. Gromacki has written other commentaries and study materials and I would encourage you to get whatever you can and use them in your studies. I am sure you will find benefit for your personal life and benefit for the lives of the people God has called you to pastor or teach. I highly recommend this commentary for your use.

I look forward to using this volume again in the future, especially if I am led to preach through 2 Corinthians. You can purchase this commentary and others from Kress Christian Publications and encourage you to visit their sites: www.kressbiblical.com or www.kresschristianpublications.com. I received this book for review purposes and offer objective feedback.

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December 18, 2010

Wiersbe, Warren W. Pause for Power. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook; 2010. 368 pp.

I was looking forward to receiving this book and looking it over. I have used many of Wiersbe’s “Be” commentaries before. This book is set up to be read daily as supplemental devotional reading. It is a short and easy to read update of his original devotional.

Excerpts are taken from fifteen of the “Be” commentaries using both Old and New Testament books. One weakness of the book is that the excerpts are not referenced with the page of the book they are taken from. Personally I would have liked that.

The book itself is small and each devotional is only one page. First a Scripture is given. Most Scriptures are from the New International Version. Then Wiersbe’s commentary and insight is given. This is followed by a short section called, “Something To Ponder.” This section usually offers a question or two for personal application.

Wiersbe has the mind of an academic and the heart of a pastor. He seems to always offer deep insight into Scripture teaching and practical application of it to one’s life. I am looking forward to using this in 2011 to supplement my personal Bible reading and study plan. If you are looking for a devotional, I recommend this one for you to use.

I received this book for free for review purposes and offer objective feedback.

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Daly, Jim. Stronger. Colorado Springs, Co: David C. Cook; 2010. 237 pp.

The subtitle for this book is, “trading brokenness for unbreakable strength” and that sets the direction for the reader. After an introduction that gives a personal story of intercessory prayer the book is broken into three main sections. The author is the president of Focus on the Family and the book is written out his response to the intercessory prayer of a missionary couple he met in China. I won’t tell you what that prayer is, but it is needed.

So while the author was reflecting on that encounter he began to look at his own life and the lives of other Christians and how they were learning about God by what they went through. There is a good amount of Scripture throughout the book mixed with good stories from real life to teach important lessons that are hard to learn. It is an encouraging read that does not just try to give quick, pat answers to real problems.

The three sections of the book lay a good foundation and then build from dealing with weakness and troubles to ending with hope and strength. You can feel some emotion while reading through this but the author is clear in that we choose how we respond to circumstances. God does not always answer prayer the way we want Him to, but He does know what is best.

This book could be an encouragement for someone who is going through a difficult time. I go back to the prayer that the missionary couple in China is praying for American Christians and think maybe we all need to reflect Biblically upon life’s circumstances.

I received this book for free for reviewing purposes and offer objective feedback.

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Smith, Efrem. Jump: Into a Life of Further and Higher. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook; 2010. 183pp.

I was looking forward to getting this book and reading it because I’ve never read anything by this author and because of his background and ministry. Jump is primarily a testimony of what Efrem has learned so far in his life. It mixes background information with ministry experiences to encourage the reader to live by faith.

The author has experience as a church planting pastor and has moved into a district leadership position within his denomination. He tries to present real life stories with an encouragement to live by faith. Throughout the book he uses the analogy of jumping and jumping by faith. The author states three key jumps for the believer. The first is the jump into the beloved self. The second is the jump into the beloved church. The third is the jump into the beloved world.

The author has a unique position to write from and weaves in stories of his upbringing, education and ministry. He cares about trying to break down walls of segregation in the church. He also cares about people living out their faith on a daily basis. The book has some interesting stories, yet it is a testimony and not a prescriptive plan for ministry. Taken as a testimony it is an interesting read. I would recommend other books if the reader were looking for books on multi-ethnic ministry or church planting.

I received this book for free from David C. Cook and offer objective feedback.

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Hood, Xan. Sweat, Blood and Tears. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook; 2010. 232 pp.

This book is the testimony that comes from the author’s journey to find out how to become and be a man. It’s Xan Hood’s testimony about his journey in becoming a man. It is written to encourage other young men who may be on a similar journey. Xan describes his privileged upbringing, skipping his college graduation ceremony and then heading west to find himself. He gets different jobs, learns how to hunt and fish, goes through some criticism and learns about God, life, work and himself.

I believe the author is sincere in wanting to encourage other young men to grow through their own personal struggles in their development as men. I also believe he means well, but the book falls short in many areas. What the author writes is his personal testimony and I give him credit for pushing through and finding himself. I also like the fact that he learned to appreciate his dad for who he is and all he did for his family.

Overall the book seems to be a collection of short stories of what Xan was going through or thinking about. He does try to deal with some growth problems and sin. But there is not a lot of substance here. He tries to be both practical and helpful and any reader who grew up working and sweating for what he obtained may think Xan whines too much.

This book was difficult for me to read. It is just not my style. This book is not a prescription to be become a man. It also cannot be read as a plan to become a man. It simply shares one young man’s journey in finding himself under his heavenly Father’s care. I am glad the author feels he became a man and I hope he continues to grow and mature. Lord willing the author and I will be better men in ten years then we are now if we continue to learn about God and obey Him.

Doing book reviews can be difficult at times. I received this book for free from David C. Cook and offer objective feedback. When I read the title I was looking forward to reading this book, unfortunately for me the book did not deliver the goods. I cannot recommend this book as a must read to any young man looking for help in growing as a man.

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Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13). Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook; second edition 2010. 185 pages.

This is a revised edition of Wiersbe’s popular “Be” series. Some of the content has been updated and there is a new introduction and study guide questions added by Ken Baugh. I would label Wiersbe’s commentaries as devotional and practical. They are not highly academic and there is no bibliography given. They are useful, especially for newer Christians or those who want a pastor’s practical insight to a particular book of the Bible.

At first I wasn’t sure if a revised “Be” series was entirely necessary. As I went through the revised Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13), I was reminded of Wiersbe’s practical insight. There are twelve chapters that will take the reader through the first thirteen chapters of the Gospel of Luke. I like Wiersbe’s writing style and this approach to a commentary. You cannot solely use this commentary for preaching or teaching preparation, but it can be a good compliment to more scholarly commentaries.

There are study guide questions at the end of each chapter to help an individual or small group dig a little deeper into their study. Some of the questions make use of other Scriptures and others ask the reader to think and dig deeper into what was read. There does not seem to be anything here that would be too difficult for an inexperienced believer to understand. But there should be an experienced, maturing believer leading the small group. The questions look like they would generate discussion among small group members.

Taken for what it is, a basic devotional commentary, I would recommend this commentary for other believers. It can be used with benefit for those who want to study Luke 1-13 on their own or in a small group. Pastors may not need this version, but they could benefit from owning and using the “Be” series. I received this book for free and offer objective feedback.

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Book Review

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: John. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook. 2010. 186 pp.

Let me start by saying that I have owned the entire “Be” series of commentaries by Warren Wiersbe for many years. I have used them during sermon preparation at different times throughout my ministry. I have benefited from using them and have recommended them to others. Now, all that aside, getting this book to look over and review is a blessing.

From the back cover; based on Dr. Wiersbe’s popular “Be” series, each study provides topical, relevant insights from selected books of the Bible. Designed for small groups, this twelve-week study features excerpts from Dr. Wiersbe’s commentaries on John, Be Alive and Be Transformed, along with engaging questions and practical applications, all designed to help you connect God’s Word with your life.

There is a short introduction to the book of John that covers some basic background information. Next there is a short chapter with tips on how to use the book and get the most out of your study whether on your own or in a group.

The study of John is then broken into twelve chapters. Each chapter is divided into the following format: Getting Starter; Going Deeper; Looking Inward; Going Forward and Seeking Help. Before you begin each study you are encouraged to pray and read the Scripture passages that will be studied. There is a reading from the commentary and questions based upon the Scripture passage. Space is given in the book to record your answers to the questions.

Tips are given for those who may be using the book for group study. These tips are designed to encourage interaction among group members. There are Real-Life Application Ideas given to the readers also. The question from lesson one has to do with baptism and specifically how well does the reader know their church’s stance on baptism? I thought that was a pretty good question.

Each lesson closes with seeking God’s help through prayer to work in your life in various ways. The reader is encouraged to follow through on what they have learned. The same format is followed in each chapter. This is a simple, straight forward, easy to use Bible study. If that is kept in mind I could see its value and benefit to many Christians who desire to grow in their knowledge of God and His Word.

Brother Wiersbe has the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. He takes the deep things of God and makes them understandable to anyone. I would recommend this book be used by young and old Christians individually or more importantly in groups. I received this book for free and offer objective feedback.

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Book Review

Swindoll, Charles R. Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2010. 363 pp.

Here is the first volume in what will be a multi-volume series on the books of the New Testament. It is by a highly respected pastor, leader and educator who has not lost his passion for teaching God’s Word to others. The book is simply divided into two main parts: 1) The Introduction to John and 2) The Commentary on John.

This volume makes use of endnotes which will prove useful to the reader who wants to do further study. Another useful section is the Key Terms in which Greek words are defined and background information is given. There are also pages designated, From My Journal, but I found those less helpful to me and unnecessary to the book.

Swindoll’s commentary follows a simple and helpful format. He gives the passage for study, his exposition of the passage and then application from what was learned. If you liked his Insights for Living broadcasts, you will like this approach. Personally I found the format and commentary both interesting and encouraging.

There is a balance between the exposition of a passage and the practical application. I would have to say that the pastor’s heart of Swindoll is shining through. Here is a commentary from a man who is a pastor first, but a pastor who is well read, who study’s deeply and who can communicate in a way to connect with people and connect people with God’s truth.

I used this commentary as a part of my studying for a recent sermon from the Gospel of John. I found it helpful as part of my preparation. As I write this short review I would encourage any young man studying to be a pastor or who is currently pastoring to get and use this book. It is written by an old man who has walked the walk and talked the talk and has earned the right to be listened too. Chuck Swindoll has a lot of wisdom and insight to offer to those who want to listen.

There is no Hollywood glitz or flash here. There is no loud cocky voice demanding to be heard. There is a simple commentary from someone who has spent many years following and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a deep commentary, but it is a useful commentary. Since this is part of a ten year project I think it is safe to say that Chuck Swindoll wants to keep on following and serving the Lord and teaching the Church what he has learned. I look forward to future volumes.

I received this commentary for free and offer objective feedback.

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Book Review

Halter, Hugh and Matt Smay. AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2010. 205pp.

Here are two leaders that have sought to find balance in what they believe and how they live out their beliefs. They have planted a church in Denver; it would seem by “accident.” But there is a method to their madness. Their struggles and victories are the basis for their story. It is an interesting read of how they found balance and harmony between being attractional and missional.

There is an introduction and eight chapters to the book. They use some basic graphics to help illustrate some of their points. On a personal level I would have liked to see some documentation, especially when they used the terms sodalic and modalic. They do give information on how to access Ralph Winters’ original article. But I would have liked to see some more of their research and documentation. But I think this book is more of a testimony than a textbook and that is alright.

Overall this book is a testimony of how God worked in Hugh’s life and how that transferred to the lives around him. The story of how God began the planting of their church on pages 45-48 is pretty good. I especially appreciated Hugh’s honesty on page 47 about God waiting on him. I am also sure that anyone who has been hurt or deeply discouraged in any church context could relate to the story.

The questions of “how to do church” and “what the church must do” (p. 26) have been asked for a long time. The AND is their testimony of finding the balance between gathering and scattering. They would also tell you that not every church should or could be a church like theirs. They allow freedom in the quest to know both yourselves and your community and then to find the balance in gathering and scattering. I thought chapter 6 spoke very well to this point.

I especially liked a thought from chapter 7. “…… if you try to start a church or grow a church, you often attract people who just want to do ‘church things’; but if you start with a mission, God will draw people together and church will happen naturally” (p. 174). I think every church planter and pastor should keep this in mind and teach it regularly.

Many people over many years have been trying to find the harmony of being “gathered and scattered.” This is not a new problem or question for church leaders. That issue has crossed many generational lines and probably will continue to challenge God’s people until Jesus returns for His Church. But Hugh and Matt share their testimony and present the Church with some interesting and encouraging material for us to read and learn from.

On a clearly personal note, they may have planted and are leading a church that is very different from someone else’s church and that is o.k., really, that is o.k. There are different expressions of the local body of Christ. God works in His children’s lives however He wants too. I may not attend a church like theirs, but I am glad their church is here reaching people I would not be able to reach. So I appreciate their obedience to God in living and serving how they believe He wants them too. Thank you for helping to build His Kingdom.

I would recommend this book to any church leader or potential leader as a helpful tool in learning more about being the Church and living out the mission of the Church in their context. A few differences or disagreements aside, I am glad I spent the time reading this book. It would be a helpful addition to any church leader’s library. I received this book for free and offer objective feedback.

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Book Review

July 12, 2010

Lawson, Steven J. The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. 2008. 168pp.

Introduction

Here is a book about one of the best known personalities in American church history. It focuses on Edwards’ “Resolutions” and how he practically lived them out. The author presents a lot of research through many citations of works on Edwards.  Some of the books referenced look like interesting reads also.

The book covers most of Edwards life and gives insight into his thinking. I learned some things about Edwards’ accomplishments that I did not know before. Even thought there are numerous references the book is an interesting read. It flows well and keeps the readers interest.

Summary

The “Resolutions” and how they came about and shaped Edwards’ life are the basis of the book. Lawson does a good job of breaking up and combining the “Resolutions” into groups that have a similar theme. They provided the basis for Edwards’ quest for practical holiness. As chapter 2 states, they were the compass for his soul.

From the Preface we read that Edwards thought the pursuit of holiness was the key to his spiritual growth and that he disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness.  Edwards was also an intellectual genius. He graduated from college at a younger than normal age (I won’t say how old, so you can read the book) and then went on to earn a master’s degree.

As a recent convert at the age of 18 he began to write his “Resolutions” and they took him approximately a year to complete. Edwards sought to diligently pursue practical holiness, but in complete dependence on God. As I read the book I was struck by Edwards’ resolve to do what God expected of him and to trust God to do only what He can do. Edwards was determined to live for the glory of God.

Critical Evaluation

There were so many citations that at times I wondered what the author thought about Edwards. I wondered if there were too many references. Even with that personal feeling the book was an interesting read. The book made good use of the “Resolutions” and how they impacted his life.

From Chapter 4, The Priority of God’s Glory: The first resolution sets the tone for all that follow. In this statement, Edwards declared that the glory of God would be his chief aim and the factor that would guide all his actions and decisions (p. 65).  This thought or aim would be good for any Christian to follow.

Chapter 6, The Precipice of Eternity is very good. It covers both his use of time and the anticipation of Christ’s return. Edwards believed procrastination to be an obstacle to God’s glory. Delayed obedience is no obedience. Slowness to carry out a task dishonors Him. Thus Edwards felt he must do his duties as quickly as possible. But he candidly admitted that he struggled with procrastination (p. 99).

The book is fairly regarding both Edwards’ diligence and struggles. Edwards does not come off as a super saint but as committed to grow in spite of himself. He was not afraid of self-examination as Chapter 9, The Posture of Self-Examination shows us. He sought to trust God’s Word more than his own feelings.

Each chapter ends with a challenge to the reader to put into practice what the chapter taught. I found the authors closing remarks encouraging and challenging. The closing words of each chapter were a good summary and challenge to the reader. I appreciated these words from the author.

Conclusion

Edwards was not presented as a super saint but as a wholly committed child of God. His personal struggles and self-doubts were presented well and balanced with the presentation of his strength of will to persevere. What if Edwards is simply a model of what a normal Christian life should look and sound like? What if any of us could resolve to live completely dedicated to the glory of God?

This book would be a good addition to any Christian’s personal library. It will help you learn about Jonathan Edwards and yourself. It will also help you learn about how God helps those who are completely dedicated to Him and don’t make excuses for their shortcomings. I highly recommend this book to any Christian who needs some encouragement on how to live completely dedicated to the glory of God.

I received a pdf of this book and will receive a free hardback copy for this review. You can purchase the book at: www.ligonier.org/reformation-trust.  

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Book Review

June 10, 2010

Ferguson, Dave and Jon Ferguson. Exponential, How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2010. 231 pp.

Introduction

Dave Ferguson wants you to know that “you can do it.” Yes, you can be a part of a missional church movement. What’s more is that you and your friends can work together to start a missional church movement. I know what you’re thinking, but you can do it! The authors are co-founding pastors with some friends of Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL. From this one church have come daughter churches, multi-site campuses and other outreach ministries throughout the U.S. and in different parts of the world.

What they write about in this book are their shared experiences of reaching the lost with their friends and of making disciples. It seems that Dave has an entrepreneurial bent that God uses to help start ministries. His brother Jon has a quick wit and a good sense of humor, based on the side comments in the book. The book is filled with many stories (testimonies) of God working in people’s lives to surrender to Him so that they could be a part of God’s plan of redemption.

Summary

The book chronicles some different experiences in their lives and the life of the church as they sought to do God’s will starting near Chicago. It is full of stories that are exciting. If you have been involved in church planting you know that God accomplishes His will in what seems to us as strange ways. He uses dreams, phone calls at just the right time, questions by a mentor that make us think, providential visits, challenges and uncomfortable circumstances. This book is full of stories like that. I might add these stories are one of the best parts of the book.

The Ferguson’s are encouragers. They have experienced the hand of God in their lives and want others to know that experience. They have both seen and heard God and they want others to know the reality of that. Yet they seem grounded and not flighty. Even though I have been in involved in church planting and church redevelopment and have experienced God in strange ways, there were a couple of times I wondered out loud. But there were more times that I said, “Praise the Lord!” It is a very exciting encouraging read.

The stories of faith and believing God to supply are also encouraging. This is the story of a church that tries to home grow their paid staff. It seems they do a pretty good job of it. They have some good requirements for leadership development that most churches should look into. They call people to active participation in the Body of Christ. They aim for a 3C Christian and I’ll let you read the book to discover what that is. Personally I think it is a good goal. They honestly don’t seem to want spectators in church but participants.

Their desire to practically grow leaders is exemplary. They state that everything hinges on the having enough leaders and so they are constantly apprenticing potential leaders. They write that they do this throughout all levels and areas of ministry. They lay out in the book the plan that they use.

As an older man I appreciated the story of the church plant in senior citizen housing development and their desire to reproduce that. It is not just a book for young people, or white middle class people either. They write about campuses and church plants that show the diversity in the body of Christ. Here is an interesting thought that I have: for the Ferguson brothers and the body at Community Christian Church it is not a stretch to believe God to do amazing remarkable things. Unfortunately for many in the greater body of Christ, that thinking is more a distant dream than a daily reality.

Here is the message of the book summarized by me and my understanding, “You can do it! Yah, you, the one reading this review. God wants to use you to accomplish His will and be a part of building His Kingdom.

Critical Evaluation

I do have a few concerns or questions about what is written in the book. First, they have a woman pastor and it sounds like they train women to be pastors. I don’t believe the Bible teaches that women are called to be pastors. I do believe that women can be leaders in church ministries, but not as pastors. I also believe that women should get good training like men should.

Second, how they teach the Bible wasn’t really stated. I came away wondering how they taught their leaders and others the Bible. They do quote business leaders and I have read some of the books they mention or other books that the quoted business leaders have written.  I’m not against the good business practices; some type of explanation of their Bible training would have been helpful.

Third, even if the modern church doesn’t understand the word “disciple” help them understand it. It is a Biblical word. They prefer to use the word “apprentice” because it is more understandable. I would venture to say that if the apprentice acts and talks like a disciple then they are a disciple. I see this as an opportunity to teach Biblical truth using Biblical words. I would also like to encourage them by saying their apprentices certainly sound like disciples.

Fourth, probably no one knows for sure where the Five Steps of Leadership Development came from. I first heard them in the early 1980’s when I attended Cedarville College. They have been taught in one form or another by both saved and unsaved leaders/teachers for generations. So I would say that two men of God don’t even need to hint that they might have thought them up. Maybe I read and interpreted the sentence the wrong way.

Fifth, do we start missional movements or do we get in the flow of the missional movement that God started when He raised Jesus from the dead? Do we get into the flow of God’s missional movement when we surrender completely and obey the whole counsel of God? Do we really start missional movements or does God allow us to join His missional movement when we live in obedience to Him? These are some of my questions.

Sixth, on a very positive side these brothers put their money where their mouth is. When they could be coasting, they are still dreaming and pursuing God and helping to build His Kingdom. My hat is off to you. In spite of some questions or differences I may have I appreciate what you and your church are doing to reach the lost and make disciples.

Seventh, if you need a good encouraging read about what God is doing in and through committed Christians then read this book. I am grateful for your napkin illustration. It reminded me of when God used me to plant a church and I was having breakfast with two men who I hoped would be part of the leadership team. One of the men was resistant and I thought God wanted him to be a part of the team. I told them the Scripture that God had laid on my heart as a foundational verse for the church plant. He said he wanted to show me something. He took out his wallet and took a folded piece of paper out with the exact same Scripture written on it. He went on to say that a little over a year ago there was a guest preacher in his church and he stopped preaching and shared that Scripture and said that God wanted to use it in someone’s life and they knew who they were. He told his wife that it was him. He wrote it down and put it in his wallet and waited. Until that day in the restaurant, then he knew he was supposed to be a part of the church planting team. God does work in strange and wondrous ways to accomplish His will.

Eight, their practical ministry examples are worth following. They are involved in people’s lives. I don’t know if they have balance, but it does not sound like they spend all their time in the office studying or on the computer. They meet with people and they work with people. They understand and teach that pastors are involved in the lives of their people.

Ninth, the practical side of their ministry comes out in the discussion questions at the end of the book. That is a good section and should not be overlooked. It would be a help in using this book with a group of leaders.

Conclusion

Overall I would highly recommend this book to other pastors and students. I have some questions or concerns and no one is perfect, but this is a very encouraging book. I rejoice that God is working in so many lives. I rejoice that people are being saved and discipled. I rejoice that leaders are being trained and sent out to lead. I rejoice that pastors are pastoring and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

I would love to sit down with these guys some time and have a cup of coffee and talk about ministry, life and dreams. I look forward to what the Lord continues to do as they and their church age. Jon- just to let you know I appreciated your side comments. Some of them really made me laugh and some; well I’m sure Dave understands. Thanks to both you brothers for your willingness to obey God and receive from God. Keep pressing on. Stay faithful and hopeful.

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Book Review

By Kim Mazey

Hunt, Susan  Sammy and His Shepherd: Seeing Jesus in Psalm 23Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. 2008. 59 pp.

Godbey, Cory. Illustrator

One of the best loved Psalms is the 23rd.  Next to the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16 it is often the most memorized portion of the Bible.  Sammy and His Shepherd: Seeing Jesus in Psalm 23 is a good tool to have in your home or church library to teach children not just the Psalm itself but the metaphor of the Good Shepherd used by the psalmist.  Each of the eleven chapters illustrates one portion of the psalm and tells the story from Sammy, a sheep’s perspective.

At the end of each chapter is a notation referring to the end of the book.  There a parent, grandparent or teacher will find the “Talk About It” section.  It is divided into three parts.  “The Bible Tells Us” includes scriptures and other Biblical concepts related to understanding the Good Shepherd.  “Something To Talk About” asks questions about what happened in the story as well as what the child may have experienced similar to the story and its characters.  “Something To Do” challenges the child to apply what he or she has learned in that chapter.

Several Biblical concepts are introduced including Jesus our redeemer, Jesus loves us, He can be trusted and will help us.  Sin and repentance are presented when the author writes, “Sometimes our lives become tangled with sin.”   “But if we ask our Good Shepherd to forgive us, He cleanses us from sins and restores us.”  The importance of God’s word and the Holy Spirit helping us to stay close to God, to love God and other people is emphasized also.

The book ends with a challenge to “tell others about your Good Shepherd.”   I appreciated this book because it tells a story in a way that will appeal to children and it helps adults teach the concepts from the Psalm and story.

The illustrations were done in a jewel -like pallet and were adequate to express the story visually.

I received a pdf of this book and will receive a free hardback copy of the book as compensation for this review.  You can purchase this book at www.reformationtrust.com.

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 Book Review

By Kim Mazey

Sproul, R.C. The Prince’s Poison CupLake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. 2008. 39 pp.

Gerard, Justin. Illustrator

After hearing an interview of an author on the radio and investigating the person further on the internet I was disturbed to discover that he had started out writing children’s books.  Later that evening I read The Prince’s Poison Cup.  I was glad to read another well written allegorical folk-like tale explaining a Biblical truth for children to understand.

The book opens with John 18:11b, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  Next is a picture of a little girl. Her facial expression, the spoon with a questionable liquid, and the tenebrous lighting invite you into the story.  As an adult you know the scene and can imagine the battle ahead of you as you try to get your child to drink medicine they don’t want.  Your child may imagine the spoon is full of bitter poison that someone is trying force upon a child just like them. The little girl is Ella and she asks her dad “why medicine tastes… bad if it is going the make us well?”  He tells Ella to ask Grandfather when he comes over later that day.

When Grandfather comes over Ella asks her question. Grandfather replies, “Some things that look or taste or smell wonderful are really awful.  But sometimes things that seem terrible are actually very good.”  He then takes Ella’s current life situation, drinking terrible tasting medicine to make her well, and tells a tale of a Prince who drank a cup of poison to heal others.  The Biblical truth is the atonement to show that Jesus had to endure the curse of sin to redeem His people from their spiritual death that they brought on themselves by disobeying God.

The story is set in a beautiful park belonging to the King of Life.  Even though they have many streams providing water, the King’s subjects disobey the order not to drink from the fountain in the middle of the park.  A stranger, the archenemy of the King, tricks them into drinking from the fountain and life changes for the worse.  Their hearts turn to stone, they become angry and selfish and they hate instead of love the King of Life.  They move away from the park and build their own City of Man.  The remainder of the story tells how the Prince fulfills the redemptive plan of the King to bring healing to their subjects who have disobeyed and deserve the King’s wrath.

The book finishes with a conversation between Ella and Grandfather.  It was this section of the book that reminded me of the importance of always pre-reading children’s books even if you respect the author or the book comes highly recommended.  Pre-reading helps you discover strengths and weaknesses in the book.  My years of experience as an RN alerted me to the statement, “…we get sick because of sin.  That’s why the medicine that makes our bodies well usually looks and tastes bad.”  I believe the author intended this to mean the general sin of mankind after the fall and not an individual sin of a child.  I believe that some children may personalize this unnecessarily.   I would be careful if I read or gave this book to a chronically or terminally ill child without explaining this statement.

The questions and scriptural answers in the “for parent’s” section are very helpful to discuss the truths expressed in this story.  The illustrations are also very delightful.  They visually complimented the tale.

I received a pdf of this book and will receive a free hardback copy of the book as compensation for this review.  You can purchase this book at www.reformationtrust.com.

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Book Review/Recommendation

May 4, 2010

Willis, Brian R. editor. If I Knew Then, Life Lessons From Cops on the Street. Calgary, Alberta Canada: Warrior Spirit Books. 2010. 268 pp.  www.warriorspiritbooks.com  

Anyone who has been in one profession long enough has probably said “if only I knew this when I was younger.” We all probably come up against situations and thought “they didn’t teach me about this.” No matter what the profession we are in and given that enough years have gone by we look back and smile thinking about how we have made it this long.

Everyone goes through a learning curve. Some people are better students than others. But if you want to survive and thrive in life you had better be willing to learn. This is a book of stories from many different police officers from many different police departments about lessons they have learned and want to pass down to new officers. I was originally drawn to this book by the title and the fact that my oldest son is in law enforcement. I am not nor have I been a police officer, but I have been the pastor and friend of law enforcement workers. Now I’m the father of a police officer.

If I don’t know something I find a way to learn about it. You can learn from others, by reading, by attending classes or seminars and by life experiences. While reading this book I learned a lot about law enforcement workers. One officer referred to fellow officers as “peace warriors.” There are chapters that could move you to tears.

There are 36 different chapters in the book. Thirty-six different stories from law enforcement people that will grip you and have you talking with someone about what you read. My wife saw the book, picked it up and read one of the chapters and cried. She was moved to tears for both the officer and for the criminal in the story. And she prayed. She prayed for both the officer and the criminal and their families.

This book grips you and makes you think. It also makes you appreciate what law enforcement workers and their family’s go through. I’m not a police officer, but I am a grateful citizen and for years I have been telling officers that I appreciate their service to the community. I hope this book will get into the hands of the general population as well as young law enforcement workers.

There are short biographies given at the end of each chapter. They are worth the read. One of the police officers works in city near where I grew up. I have still have family living there. Many of the officers became trainers or teachers so they could make a positive difference. To see what some have accomplished in spite of the difficulty of their work is amazing.

There are a lot of good quotes in this book. Some I have already used or posted on this blog. There are too many stories for me to go into detail in this review. They are law enforcement work experiences that the general public would do well to read. I’ve heard a quote many times and don’t know who it started with, but it is this, “leaders are readers.” Anyone in a position of leadership would benefit from reading this book.

I highly recommend this book to any pastor to read, especially if he has law enforcement workers in his congregation. Please don’t take for granted that you know something when you don’t. For those readers who have a loved one in law enforcement, I recommend that you get this book and give it to them as a gift. You may want to read it first before you give it to them, it just may help you understand them a little better. I also recommend this book to those in the general public who want to have a better idea of what law enforcement workers go through.

I received this book for free from the publisher and provided an objective review. You can purchase the book at www.warriorspiritbooks.com. You can also see all of the other resources they provide.

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Book Recommendation/Review

April 27, 2010

McChrystal, Scott. Daily Strength for the Battle. Springfield, MO: Warrior Spirit Publications. 2009. 136pp.

Scott McChrystal spent 31 years in active duty with the United States Army. He retired as both a Chaplain and a Colonel. He is using his walk with God and his service to his country as the basis for this book. This is volume 1, Training in Spiritual Excellence in what he plans to offer as a series of manuals. You can learn more at www.dailystrengthforthebattle.com .

A friend of mine who is a pastor, church planter, military veteran and V. A. Hospital Chaplain sent me a copy of this book to look over. He wanted to know what I thought of it and how I might use it in my life and ministries. Let me say that I am grateful to Eduardo for sending me this book. It looks to be a book that is both very Scriptural and very practical. It should prove a blessing to anyone who uses it.

I went through the book quickly because it is short and is designed to be used as a devotional book. Chaplain McChrystal’s plan is to get people into the Word of God on a daily basis. He pulls no punches and offers no excuses in that he wants people to get into the habit of daily learning about God. I truly appreciate this approach because some “well known” Christians of today try to help their followers not feel bad about not having a daily time of Bible reading, study and prayer.

So this little book is set up to be read daily over a seven week period. There are seven different themes for the seven weeks. Each daily devotion relates to that week’s theme. Each weekly theme begins with a practical illustration to show the relevance and importance of each theme. Each daily devotion begins with a Bible verse (p. 14).

The weekly themes in this volume are: 1) Trials; 2) Wisdom and Guidance; 3) Obedience; 4) Salvation; 5) Standing Strong; 6) Setting the Example; and 7) Caring for Others. This is designed with the active or retired military person in mind. I do think non-military people will benefit from going through the book also, especially men.

At the end of the book there is a section called, “What God Says.” This is like a glossary that gives key words or themes in alphabetical order with Scriptures for each one. This could be very helpful for many readers. There is also some information on Chaplain McChrystal and some blank pages for the reader’s notes.

One of the reasons I went through the book quickly is because I already have devotional reading to supplement my Bible reading and study for each morning. The other reason is because I want to send this book to my oldest son who served in the Marines and is now a police officer. I think it will be of benefit to him. That should give you some idea of what I think of the value of the book. I also plan on getting copies for both my youngest son and myself.

Let me close this book review/recommendation with some of the words of the introduction:

“The term veteran actually encompasses all military folks, past and present. Perhaps the best definition of a veteran I’ve ever seen comes from an anonymous source:

A “veteran” – whether active duty, discharged, retired or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to the “United States of America,” for an amount “up to and including his/her life.”

The public at large doesn’t understand the hardships and sacrifices unique to the military community. I’m not sure they ever will. This is not a criticism, but an observation worth consideration as America tries to support the community of warriors who keep our nation free.

As my act of support, I offer this devotional book because I firmly believe that hope for the military community – past and present – rests in a relationship with the living God through His Son Jesus Christ” (pp. 12-13).

Well done brother McChrystal! I hope that our God uses this book and your ministry to bring the Gospel, salvation and healing to many, many military personnel and their families. To God be the glory!

If you know someone who served in the military you should consider getting them a copy of this book. You can purchase the book at www.dailystrengthforthebattle.com .

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Book Review

April 25, 2010

by Kim Mazey

Sproul, R.C.  The Lightlings.  Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. 2006. 40 pp.

Gerard, Justin. Illutrator

Since I was a child the mystery and symbolism of allegory has always delighted me.  Discovering  the hidden meaning of the story and it’s components were fun.  The Lightlings is an allegorical story that I believe children and adults will enjoy.

Children will relate to the little boy, Charlie, and his fear of the dark.  They will learn that loving Jesus can take away their fear of the dark. They will also enjoy the illustrations of the Lightlings and their world.  Upon closer look there is much to discover in each picture.

Adults will appreciate the presentation of the story of man’s fall and redemption in a form they can use to explain this concept to children.  The questions and scriptural answers at the end of the book are highly helpful to discuss the important truths.

The Lightlings will be a good addition to both a personal library and also a church’s library. It could be used  for an emergency lesson in children’s church and Sunday school.  I would read this book with 4 to 8 year olds.  Younger children may enjoy the pictures.

I received a pdf of this book and will receive a free hardback copy of the book as compensation for this review. You can purchase this book at  www.reformationtrust.com.

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Book Review

March 22, 2010

Armstrong, John H. your church is too small. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2009. 219 pp.

John is the president of Act 3 and an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College. He has also authored or edited a number of other books.

The book is divided into three main parts. They are: Past, The Biblical and Historical Basis for Christian Unity; Present, Restoring Unity In The Church Today; and Future, The Missional-Ecumenical Movement. These parts are compiled in nineteen short chapters. There are quotes at the start of each chapter. At the end of the book is a good glossary, recommended resources and endnotes. For anyone that would want to do further reading or research these are pretty good.

I was looking forward to getting this book and reading it. In the Introduction the author wants the reader to understand that the “small church” he is referring to is a mind-set that hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in mission and is contrary to the prayer of Jesus for our unity (p. 13). Then he goes on to tell what his purposes are in telling his story in search of unity. There is the key to understanding the book. It is Armstrong’s story and taken as such it is interesting reading.

The author seems to have a good working knowledge of church history. The book is well researched. The author gives examples from history, his interpretation and then how he applied his new found knowledge. It is a good story of how he came to understand the importance of unity among believers of different faiths. He shares openly about his background and how that did not prepare him for knowing about and accepting Christians who were different than he was. He seems to be very open and honest about the things he learned and how they still impact him to this very day.

He states that his thesis is simple: The road to the future must run through the past (p. 13). He restates it slightly differently on page 36. As I read a book I usually underline and write comments in the margins. I started doing the same hear with this book. The more I read this book, the less I liked it. It became a chore to read it. I want to state clearly, that I agree with the idea of unity in the greater body of Christ, but I do not agree with everything that was written in this book. I even wrote in one of the margins “Does doctrine matter?” Actually I wrote this more than once.

The author is open and honest about his story. And being open and honest he is opening himself up to negative or less than favorable reviews. I commend him for that. The author seemed to use words like “fear” and “afraid” enough times that I may have misunderstood him, but I think you can love and respect and accept another Christian, yet understand your doctrinal differences would hinder you from working together in evangelism and discipleship. To me at least, you can still maintain your doctrinal differences and have genuine fellowship, pray together and be friends. There were times when I wondered if the author thought you could not really be friends with another Christian if you did not accept everything about their doctrine.

The more I read the book the harder it was to keep reading. I cannot judge someone’s heart or motives or experience. I do not know the author personally, yet I do believe the author is sincere in his desire for unity in the body. I do believe his story is worth telling. But I recommend this book with reservations. It may be better as a research tool than a model to follow. I wish John all the best as he seeks the Truth about unity and tries to apply that in his life and the life of his church and in his community.

I received this book for free from Zondervan to read and post a review.

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Book Review

Phillips, Richard D. The Masculine Mandate. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. 2010. 174 pp.

Introduction

Is there a “rule” to follow to be a “man”? Are there clear guidelines given in the Bible for achieving “masculinity”? Is there a Biblical answer to the questions concerning gender issues that are so prevalent today? The Masculine Mandate seeks to set forth a Biblical understanding of what it means to be a man. The author seeks to help men understand both their God-given calling and responsibility to God as men. He also attempts to show how this mandate from God affects all areas of a man’s life.

The author is qualified to write on this subject for a number of reasons. First, he was saved as an adult and shows understanding of his life and motivations before and after coming to Christ. Second, he was a tank commander in the military and taught leadership at West Point. Third, he understands the “call” to ministry and what it cost him to resign his military commission, to follow his heavenly commission. Fourth, he is married and has children and wants to be a godly male role model. Lastly, he pastors a local church and understands the importance of godly male leadership.

Summary

The book is divided into two parts, 1. Understanding our Mandate and 2. Living our Mandate. In part one he builds the mandate upon Genesis 2:15, The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. He sees this as the basis of the covenantal relationship between the man, Adam and God. These two verbs to the glorious, God-given lifelong project of masculine living: work and keep (p.8).  Both working and keeping form the basis of the Masculine Mandate. Everything else builds from these two primary responsibilities.

In part one, chapter’s one through five; the author is laying the doctrinal foundation for his premise. His premise stems from the covenant with God and involves both working and keeping. He will reiterate this many times through the book. This reviewer neither got tired of reading it nor of being reminded of it. The author does a good job of laying his doctrinal foundation in part one. I will share some of my favorite quotes from part one.

Chapter 1: “That is the Masculine Mandate: to be spiritual men placed in real-world, God-defined relationships, as lords and servants under God, to bear God’s fruit by serving and leading” (p. 9).

Chapter 2: “Our calling in life really is this simple (although not therefore easy): We are to devote ourselves to working/building and keeping/protecting everything placed into our charge” (p. 12).

Chapter 4: “The single greatest issue in our lives is this: Revealing the glory of God to a sin-darkened world so that He will be praised and that lost sinners will be saved by coming to know the Lord. The great purpose of our lives is to reveal the glory grace of God both by what we do and by who we are” (p. 34).

Also in part one he writes about calling, responsibility and prayer. He lays a good foundation doctrinally. He presents a high view of both Scripture and God. He presents a good picture of man’s responsibility to both God and society. As I read I thought of an old phrase about men being both tough and tender. Phillips does a good job in helping the reader understand the mandate.

In part two, chapters six through 13 the reader is taught how to live the mandate. He writes about the marriage covenant in three chapters. I think every man I know would benefit from reading these three chapters. This is some good teaching on the roles of men and women. There is sound practical teaching on working together as husband and wife. His pastoral experience shines here.

In chapters nine and ten the work and keep mandate is applied to raising children. There is good material here as well. Younger parents would especially benefit from these chapters. The author’s children are still young, so time will tell if he would change anything here. As an older parent I can confidently say the material here is good.

Chapter eleven deals with men and friendship. He primarily uses the example of Jonathan and David to teach men about true friendship. In chapters twelve and thirteen he writes about how the mandate is lived out in the church and as servants of God. He draws a comparison between Adam and Nehemiah which is pretty good. I will give a few selected quotes from this section as well.

Chapter 6: “…..God said Adam needed a ‘helper’ because it places the primary emphasis on the shared mandate to work and keep God’s creation under the man’s leadership” (p. 58).

Chapter 7: “….should remind us that the primary threat to the safety of our loved ones is always our own sin” (p. 72).

Chapter 9: “…., the main premise of this book is that the mandate of Genesis 2:15 summarizes our calling as men in our various roles. God put Adam in the garden ‘to work it and keep it,’ and the only difference between Adam’s calling and ours lies in the details of how we seek to fulfill it” (p. 94).

Chapter 10: “To be effective fathers, therefore, we must master our emotions and control our speech, observing the warnings found in James 3” (p. 110).

There is ample practical help given in order for any reader to live out the mandate. Part two applies the doctrinal foundation to everyday life. A section of questions for each chapter follows and closes the book. These questions could be used to help guide a discussion or study of the book. The author uses endnotes instead of footnotes and has a helpful index of Scripture.

Critical Evaluation

The author’s premise was based on Genesis 2:15 and the command to both work and keep given to Adam. This mandate was then passed down to every man. Having read the book somewhat carefully, I think Phillips did a good job of defining, presenting and supporting his premise. He defined the words and shared how they applied to men today.

In Part One, Understanding Our Mandate, the intent was to lay a doctrinal foundation for the premise. He used five chapters to teach about the mandate; man’s calling to work, man being made in the likeness of God and man’s role as a leader. This may be the strongest section of the book even though that is like deciding between apples and oranges. The author did a good job of helping the reader understanding the responsibility before God to both work and keep.

With all that man is required to do for working and keeping it is also clearly presented that man is to pray. “A life committed to prayer is likewise essential for any man’s spiritual growth. It is virtually impossible to find a man greatly used by God who is not strongly devoted to prayer” (p. 39). Here is some balance. Man does what he is supposed to do and trusts God to do what only God can do.

Phillips is a pastor of a local church and his pastor care comes out in different ways. In chapter five, he discusses the male role of leadership. This is a good chapter. To this reader, his pastoral side comes out in the following: “Providing a true sense of belonging is one of the most caring gifts any leader can give to a follower” (p. 50). To me, that is one of the key roles of pastoral leadership and Phillips seems to understand what he is talking about.

In Part Two, Living Our Mandate, he brings the doctrinal foundation to bear upon marriage, parenting, friendship, ministry within the church and servant living. He attempts to show the practical side of his theology. I would say he does a pretty good job.

Three chapters are used to discuss the marriage relationship and the roles of men and women. He attempts to show the different roles that men and women have in the covenant. He does a good job of presenting the Biblical evidence and making practical application. The definition of the woman as “helper” on page 60 is very good. He defines the Hebrew word and then shows how it applies.

One weakness of chapters nine and ten is that his children are still relatively young. Time will tell if the parenting style he proposes is the best way to raise and equip children. I think it will and I hope it will.

His use of the one example of friendship involving Jonathan and David is a little weak or one sided. He says that a friend ministers primarily to faith of his brothers in Christ, seeking to build

up their trembling hearts…..(p. 127). Personally I think there is much more that a true Christian friend does for his brothers in Christ. I thought this chapter had good material but lacked balance. The example given is just one aspect of male friendship.

His use of quotes and examples from other men and pastors is good. His examples of the questions and answers on pages 141-142 by Pastor Alexander are both encouraging and motivating. I appreciated his use of Nehemiah in chapter twelve as Nehemiah is one of my favorite Bible characters.

The book closes well and we as men are instructed to look for the return of Jesus Christ. The reader is encouraged to live in the light of the future that is certain to come (p. 144). If that was the author’s intent in this book, he did a good job of both teaching and challenging men to do just that.

Conclusion

The author did good research and presented his work in a very understandable format. I have already recommended this book to several friends. I appreciated the balance between theology and practical application. The author is a pastor who also happens to be a theologian. His church should be glad to have him as a pastor. If he practices what he preaches his family, his church and the community where he lives will be blessed. I hope this can be said of him, “I perceive a man of God has passed by here.”

This is a good book and well worth the time to read, study and apply the material within it. There were times during the reading that I had to stop and pray. Sometimes they were prayers for forgiveness and sometimes they were prayers of praise. I have decided that this is one of the books I want my adult sons to read. There is much for any man to learn here. Well done, brother Phillips!

Note: I received a pdf of this book and will receive a free hardback copy of the book as compensation for this review. You can purchase the book here: www.ligonier.org

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Book Review

February 16, 2010

Sanders, Martin. The Power of Mentoring. Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread Publishers. 2004. 205pp.

Introduction

“Shaping People Who Will Shape the World” is the subtitle of the book. To the author, mentoring is that important. It’s the view Sanders would have his readers take as they think through their role and position in mentoring. Maybe you feel like it is time for you to mentor someone. Maybe you are wondering what characteristics to look for in a mentor. Both of these questions are addressed and answered in this book.

Sanders draws on both his personal experiences as both a mentor and a mentoree to help the reader understand the important relational dynamic of mentoring. Mentoring does not come across as a program, but as an important process of relational growth. Sanders has served as a pastor and currently teaches at Alliance Theological Seminary. He also founded and serves as president of Global Leadership, Inc. He is well qualified to write a book of this nature.

Summary

This book would be a good tool to equip people to become mentors. It is an easy read, but should not be read too quickly. Take the time to digest what you are reading. There is a lot of practical information here. The chapters flow well together and the reader’s attention is kept throughout the book. Sanders gives examples from his own life experiences without coming across arrogant. He used all of his ministry experiences to help him answer two key questions. The questions are, “How can I find a mentor?” and “I have been asked to mentor someone; what do I do?” (p. xiv).

Each chapter ends with a summary of Key Thoughts to help the reader review what they have read. There is also a section of Questions for Further Reflection so the reader can think more deeply on what was read and how it might apply. This is followed by an Action Plan so the reader can apply what is read. This book seems designed to help readers become mentors and to get over the fear of becoming mentors.

The reader will soon find in chapter one that Sanders believes that character and issues of the heart are the key to successful ministry. He also believes that mentors need to learn to ask good questions and guide the mentoree into finding answers and making personal application. The mentoring relationship is seen as a process of development and transformation.

There is no “cookie cutter” approach to mentoring promoted here. There are different models of mentoring relationships given and their strengths and weaknesses. The key to mentoring success is relational and Sanders gives good examples of relationships he has had both as the teacher and student. He seems genuinely grateful for the mentors he has had in his life. He also seems to truly desire to encourage more mentoring relationships in the Church. He knows the value of mentoring and is passionate about it.

Some of the chapters deal with discipleship, character development and emotional development. The mentoring relationship is seen as a process of development and its key to success is being “intentional”. Sanders believes that both the mentor and mentoree need to be intentional about what they want out of the relationship. They need to be intentional about the length of time and the format for the relationship to be successful. The writing is clear and there does not seem to be anything the reader has to guess about.

Critical Evaluation

In the preface Sanders says that the book is designed to address some of the issues about the need for mentoring. Throughout the book he does a good job of presenting the need for mentoring. He also gives some good examples of how older people should be mentoring younger people. He gives examples of peer mentoring also.

Sanders also states that there are two key questions that he is regularly asked concerning mentoring. He gives a clear answer to what to do in mentoring. This book is full of helpful advice and illustrations. Even though it is not written as a “how to mentor manual” there are plenty of practical steps one could apply in a mentoring relationship. He also does a good job of encouraging older, experienced people to get involved in mentoring.

I do not think the question of how to find a mentor is as clearly addressed. The reader could come away with some ideas of what to look for in a mentor regarding their interests or desires. Characteristics of mentors are given, but the reader will have to take the initiative and seek out a mentor.

One comes away from reading this book with what a big need for intentional mentoring there is. Sanders makes a distinction between discipling and mentoring chapter six. I think his definitions given on pages 69-70 are fairly accurate. I agree with him that discipling is focused on spirituality and developmental issues and that mentoring can cover a much broader developmental context.

Sanders presents the issues of character formation (chapter 7) and integrity (chapter 8) in a clear and balanced way. These two chapters are part of the strengths of the book. He states that the development of godly character is about giving up control to the Holy Spirit so that He can accomplish His powerful work in the life of the individual (p. 91). He also urges believers to intentionally embrace difficult times in their lives (p. 93). These are two of the best chapters in the book.

The importance of being intentional and of planning is a recurring thought throughout the book. This is another important truth to take to heart and apply by every reader. His concept of tithing your time for leadership development should be followed by every pastor (pp. 147-152). There is no “cookie cutter” program to follow and the reader will find plenty of examples to get an idea of how to work out mentoring in their live. It is a book full of practical advice.

One thing I do not agree with Sanders in is what he calls “mentoring across genders.” He refers to his examples as coaching or mentoring and not discipling. I personally do not agree with women mentoring men in a local church setting. I do think that women can teach men in a business or college setting, but when it comes to the local church, my understanding of Scripture is that women should disciple or mentor women and should not mentor or disciple men. This idea was only presented in a couple of pages in the last chapter.

Appendix 1: Life Plan and Appendix 3: Suggested Resources are very good. They would be helpful to continued study and growth as a mentor. There is a lot of good practical material here.

Conclusion

I started out reading this book quickly and soon found too much good material to give it a quick once over. I started my reading over and found myself underlining and writing in the margins. Sanders comes across both confident and humble. His personal examples do not just make him look good, but make him look real. I found myself looking forward to reading the next chapter and trying to find truth to apply in my life with the hope of becoming a better mentor.

I would encourage any pastor to purchase and read this book and intentionally apply the truth in their personal lives and ministry’s. Most pastors I know could do with a little encouragement in being both intentional and practical in the use of their time. Tithing their time for intentional leadership development might be one of the best things a pastor could do for his church, his community and the Kingdom of God.

The book will be of benefit to other leaders and not just pastors. Anyone desiring to learn about mentoring or hoping to grow as a mentor should read this book. It is full of helpful ideas. On a personal note, I received this book for free from the publisher and was not paid for this review. The book can be purchased from this site: www.echurchdepot.com.

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Book Recommendation

February 8, 2010

Heward, Lyn and John Bacon. The Spark, Igniting The Creative Fire That Lives Within Us All.  New York: A Currency Book. 2009. 137.

The Spark is a quick, easy read. It is both encouraging and uplifting. I borrowed this copy from my local public library. I want to give a shout out to my friend, D. L. who recommended this book to me along with about six other books. Thanks.

If you need a little encouragement to be creative or take a risk this book may be the spark you need (pun intended).  Here are a couple quotes:

“It’s amazing how much we fear the unknown – even when the unknown carries with it the possibility of success. We are so determined to stick to our comfort zones that we learn to live with disappointment, as long as it is familiar and safe. This was the lesson; I knew this training session was all about. Our fears hold us back, and make us fall short of our goals. Only by taking risks can we hope to accomplish the extraordinary.” (pp. 63-64)

“You know, we may wear these strange faces, but when we’re on stage, all the makeup in the world can’t cover up unhappiness. That’s true in life also, isn’t it? But if you’re not happy, you can always do something else. You are never trapped in life. When you realize that, you find you’re free to accomplish incredible things!” (p. 79)

“You have to be confident enough to let your imagination spin off in all kinds of directions. And if you really want to make things happen, you have to be willing to crash.”

I liked this book and think it was worth the time it took to read it. I would not buy it, but I suggest you borrow it and read it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Book Review

February 8, 2010

BOOK REVIEW OF ZONDERVAN ILLUSTRATED BIBLE BACKGROUNDS COMMENTARY, VOLUME 5

Walton, John H., general editor. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol. 5. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. 2009. 557.

Volume 5 contains the Minor Prophets and Poetical Books of the Bible. Since I did an in depth review of volume 3 in this series this review will be somewhat shorter. I liked using volume 5 as much as volume 3. The book is bigger than most other books. The book itself is easy to read. The text is large and clear. The layout is very good. There are many helpful pictures placed throughout it. The pictures help the reader see what they are learning about. The many illustrations help the reader learn more also.

There is introductory material given on each book. Then the commentary follows, sometimes on a single verse, or multiple verses. Some verses are passed over and there is no commentary on them. The commentary section is followed by the bibliography and the chapter notes. I found each of the bibliographies and chapter notes helpful.

Interspersed throughout the commentary are helpful charts, illustrations and other study helps. For example on pages 10-12, The “How” and “Why” of the Syncretism Reflected in Hosea. Also see, The Assyrian lion hunt on page 155. The pictures and illustrations throughout the Psalms commentary were interesting and helpful.

I read the commentary on Psalms’ 1, 18, 37, and 103. I found the commentary helpful. I also looked at the Hosea, Malachi and parts of Job. This is not an in depth expository commentary. It deals with the background of the book or section of Scripture. But it is a helpful resource to the student of Scripture.

Looking through this volume and using it on certain books reaffirmed my willingness to recommend this set to serious students of Scripture. It would be a welcome addition to a pastor’s library or a church library. It is a good work to have and use. I received this volume for free and was not paid for this review.

_____________________________________

Christian History Magazine:

They are running a sale on back issues and a CD of all their back issues. This was a good magazine. It is no longer in print. If you like history this could be a sale for you. You can find more information here: http://www.christianhistorystore.com/

________________________________

Book Summary

“Indigenous Church Planting”, by Charles Brock, published by Church Growth International, Neosho, MO. 1994. 272 pages. ISBN 1-885504-27-6

This book is both an easy and enjoyable read. The author shares both his knowledge of both Scripture and church planting. The book was born out of his personal experiences on the mission field. There are no hidden meanings or messages in this book. For some readers it may be too simple. Everything seems to be laid out in straight forward detail. The author points the church planter to God and His Word. There is a clear call to trust God and for the church planter to have a growing practical and theological knowledge of God. For some readers this may seem too simple, but the author does not take knowledge of God or His Word for granted.

The book is not overly academic, yet it would balance out the academic reading of most seminary and Bible college classes on church planting. The emphasis on practical application and the number of personal testimonies within the book may turn off some readers looking for a more academic approach. This is not an academic or scholarly approach to church planting. It is a practitioner’s testimony for what God taught him about church planting. Any church planter would be wise to read it and learn from it.

The book is divided into an introduction, six major sections and an appendix. This review will give quotes from one to three chapters within each section. Hopefully the reader of this review will get a good overview of the book and then decide for themselves whether or not to purchase it and read it. From the preface Brock writes, “As you read the contents of this book you will quickly see that the planter is of importance, but the key to success lies in proper dependence on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. With these two in the forefront, it is easier and natural for the church planter to fade into the background as an instrument. This does not minimize the church planter, but it relieves him from struggling to win people and give birth to churches. His struggle consists of maintaining spiritual readiness and availability.”

  1. Section One: Preliminaries To Planting

Chapter 1: Motivation For the Journey, “Their basic resources were: commitment, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. If a church planter would be free from frustration and discouragement, these three elements must be alive and foremost in his venture.” (p.26)

Chapter 2: Absolute Essentials and Excess Baggage, “The four essentials for all church planters are: Spirit, Seed, Sower, and Soil. Without any one of these, New Testament church planting is impossible.” (p. 30)

Chapter 5: Roles of Ministry For the Pastor and Church Members, “The gap between the clergy and laity is still too great. God’s people need to be set free to minister in meaningful ways in the world as well as in the church.” (p. 65)

  1. Section Two: Focus Before Starting

Chapter 10: What is an Indigenous Church? “There are at least five “selfs” in the indigenous church. It is self-governing, self-supporting, self-teaching, self-expressing and self-propagating.” (pp. 90-95)

Chapter 14: What Strategy and Methods Will I Use? “Basic principle: The planter should not use anything which the people cannot provide for themselves. (p. 126)

Chapter 16: What Do I Do When There Is Little or No Response? “The target should be analyzed. When growth is slow, the planter could be aiming at the wrong target. A mission may get in a rut of targeting a certain sector of society and retain that target even when there is little or no response.” (p. 143)

  1. Section Three: The Church Planting Process

Chapter 19: The Pre-Salvation Stage, “The greatest need today is for the birth of churches through bringing people to Christ and then guiding them into church consciousness. When the objective is a fully indigenous church, I have found it best not to begin with transferees or half committed believers. I prefer to begin with new converts who are free of tradition, especially if that tradition is contrary to New Testament and indigenous principles.” (p. 153)

Chapter 20: Salvation: The First Objective, “Only as salvation is taken very seriously can one expect to be successful in planting churches.” (p. 154)

  1. Section Four: The Birth Of A Church

Chapter 22: They Have Been Born Again, What Next? “The first step was the salvation of individuals in the group. Now that they have been saved, it is logical for them to be asking, “Now what?” I Have Been Born Again, What Next? has been designed in the midst of church planting to answer this question. It takes people where they are and leads them to a basic understanding of discipleship and responsible church membership.” (p. 196)

  1. Section Five: Post Birth

Chapter 24: After the Birth: Development, “The work of the church planter does not end with the birth of the church. Someone, either the planter, an associate who specializes in church development, or some other team member, must take seriously the training of leadership.” (p. 204)

Chapter 25: Leadership Training, “Leadership training begins before the church is born. As the planter involves participants in the Bible study he is training leaders. Through their participation and his example, training is going on all the time. His influence is felt before a training class is scheduled.” (p. 214)

Chapter 26: Church Organizational Meeting, “Within a week or two following the baptismal service and birth of the church, it is usually necessary to have a meeting where some formal planning and organization is done. The church planter should lead this meeting.” (p. 220)

VI.       Section Six: the Churches In Fellowship

Chapter 32: The Birth of a Fellowship or Association, “No planter should feel satisfied just to get a church planted. There is a need for encouragement and sharing beyond that which the planter can do. Churches need sister churches. As a church planter I am well aware of my objectives long before beginning the first Bible study.” (p. 248)

  1. The Appendix

The appendix has some helpful entries, one of them being a list of Church Growth Definitions.

There is some good practical advice in this book. One drawback is that the illustrations may be bit too folksy for some readers. Brock also shares mainly from personal testimonies. Yet the limitations are few compared to the value of the whole to church planting literature. Overall I think that any church planter would come away encouraged after having read this book. It is not academic, but it does make you think. It also reminds you of the greatness of God and of His ability to supernaturally empower church planters to accomplish His task. There is nothing wrong with being reminded of how great God is and of how dependent upon Him that we are.

I would encourage any church planter to make this book a part of their reading before they plant a first or another church. It is well worth the price to have it has a part of one’s library. The overall layout and progression of thought and principles is very good. The time spent reading it is time well spent.

______________________________

BOOK REVIEW OF ZONDERVAN ILLUSTRATED BIBLE BACKGROUNDS COMMENTARY, VOLUME 3

Walton, John H., general editor. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol. 3. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. 2009. 529.

Introduction

Do we really need another set of commentaries on the Old Testament? I have to admit that I was asking myself that question when I read about the contest on the Koinonia blog. But I entered the contest anyway, not thinking that I would win. But I was one of the people chosen to receive one volume of the five volume set. My responsibility for winning this free volume was to review it and post the review on a blog.

I chose to receive and review volume 3, which covers 1 Kings through Esther. My first reason for choosing this volume is that Nehemiah is one of my favorite Old Testament books. My second reason is that I am preparing to preach through Ezra followed by Nehemiah after the first of the year. Third, I figured I cannot have too many commentaries on Ezra/Nehemiah. My reasoning for entering the contest may have been flawed, but I won and received the commentary. Then I began to go through it.

Summary 

The look of the commentary is actually quite impressive. The book itself is larger than most commentaries. The type of paper used and the text type make it very easy to read. There are many pictures and illustrations included to help the reader with insight into the Biblical setting. The pictures and illustrations are literally quite impressive. Most readers will be surprised at the number and quality of the pictures.

The general editor gives opening remarks on the methodology used in preparing the commentary. These are both interesting and helpful. The General Bibliography is also helpful. Each book ends with a Bibliography and Chapter Notes. There are a very large number of references cited. Each individual author did a lot of work in preparing their commentary. The commentaries could be considered both academic and practical.

Critical Evaluation

I glanced over the sections of 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles and Esther. They seem to be very good and well constructed. They should prove to be valuable assets to my library. Since I am preparing to preach through Ezra and Nehemiah I spent more time going through each of these sections. They have already proved their worth to me as I do my sermon preparation.

I would like to give one example from both Ezra and Nehemiah as to their benefit to my study. The following is an excerpt from pages 418-419. The People’s Response (10:1-4). Weeping and throwing himself down 10:1. Weeping, not silently but aloud, like laughing is contagious. The people also wept bitterly…….. Ezra kept on throwing himself down on the ground. He had been kneeling before. The prophets and other leaders sometimes used object lessons, even bizarre actions, to attract people’s attention… Kidner comments, “Instead of whipping a reluctant people into action, Ezra has pricked their conscience to the point at which they urge him to act.” To me, Ezra was modeling what the people needed to do. They needed to repent with all honesty and urgency before God. Ezra and the people are in this together.

The second example comes from page 441 and the comments are from the familiar passage of Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy” occurs only here and in 1 Chronicles 16:27. Most commentators interpret this joy as having the Lord as its object. In other words, our joy in the Lord as we eat as we eat and labor before him will sustain us…. However, arguing from the fact that “strength” means “stronghold, fortress”…..Wong has argued for “the joy of the Lord” as a subjective genitive, that is the Lord’s joy in us, as that makes more sense. He suggests, “In other words, it is Yahweh’s joy over his people that is the basis for the hope that they will be saved or protected from his anger. Thinking practically doesn’t it make you feel both secure and strong knowing that Almighty God has joy in you?

Both of these books are covered well by the author. He presents a good addition to the Ezra/Nehemiah library of commentaries. There are 329 Chapter Notes on these two books, not counting the Sidebar and Chart Notes. It appears to be a thorough study of Ezra/Nehemiah.

Summary

This volume has proved valuable to me in my sermon preparation. It is a good size and easy to read. I did receive volume 3 for free, and I was not paid for this review. If the other volumes in the five volume set are as good as this one, I would recommend this set to any pastor to purchase and use. This commentary set would also be a good addition to any church that has a library. The bottom line is it is good! Get it and use for the glory of God.

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