Monday, May 22, 2017

Worship by Jeff Kinley

book cover
Worship
by Jeff Kinley


ISBN-13: 9781943852451
Trade Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: True Potential
Released: 2017

Source: Checked out from church library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Unfortunately, the image of God present in many Christians’ minds today resembles more of a caricature than an accurate portrait. Like a cartoonist’s sketch, some entertain a distorted picture of who God is and what He is like, with many relating to Him as a distant Deity or even as a faceless Force. Others see Him merely as a compassionate, caring, and convenient God. Worse, false teachers have also infiltrated the Church. Many deny core truths, reimagining God to fit their preferences. This flawed, idolatrous understanding reduces Him into a deity that exists to serve us and our needs.

But the God of Scripture exists independent of our thoughts, feelings and ideas of Him. He is not as we imagine Him to be, but rather who He declares Himself to be in Scripture. This biblical knowledge is the very basis and beginning of authentic worship. It is through this heavenly understanding that we come face to face with the real God, discovering and experiencing what worship was meant to be!

With author, speaker, and veteran Bible teacher Jeff Kinley as your guide, journey deep into God’s Word, where you will encounter not only a refreshing simplicity, but also a renewed level of intimacy with your God and Savior!


My Review:
Worship is a Bible Study about worship. It's not about music styles or other "worship service" debates but about what the Bible says. Starting in Genesis, the author talked about how worship was easy and automatic before the Fall. That's no longer true, yet we're hardwired to worship, so where do we start? "Your view of God will determine your worship of Him. The more you know of God's greatness, the greater your capacity to declare His praise."

So the author explored what God is like and why He is worthy of worship. He also looked at examples of "extreme worship" in the Bible, like when David got to dancing or the widow in the New Testament gave "all she had" when she gave her two coins at the Temple. He talked about sacrificial praise, given when circumstances aren't so great...but our God still is.

The book was easy to read and to follow. The author made excellent points. I appreciate that he dug into the Bible to look for answers. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace

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Forensic Faith
by J. Warner Wallace


ISBN-13: 9781434709882
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C Cook
Released: May 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Forensic Faith will help readers: understand why they have a duty to defend the truth, develop a training strategy to master the evidence for Christianity, learn how to employ the techniques of a detective to discover new insights from God’s Word, and become better communicators by learning the skills of professional case makers.

With real-life detective stories, fascinating strategies, and biblical insights, Wallace teaches readers cold-case investigative disciplines they can apply to their Christian faith.


My Review:
Forensic Faith explains why Christians need to learn the evidence supporting the Christian faith and teaches some basic apologetics skills. The first part of the book made the case for why it's important not to just have blind faith that Christianity is true but to understand the evidence that confirms it's true and to build your skill at sharing this information.

Many Christian kids are losing their faith due to unanswered questions, yet the answers are out there. We need to train our kids (and adults) with the answers. Training involves practice, and the author described how he's done this with youth groups. I totally agree that kids should be taught the evidence and the skill to share it. I taught myself some of this way back when I first went to college, and it made a huge difference.

The author was a cold-case detective. In the second part of the book, he explained how skills he used as a detective can be applied to spotting evidence for Christianity and using this evidence to make a case for it. A lot of this information was from (and covered in greater detail in) his previous two books. If you've read those books, you're probably already convinced that it's important to learn and share the evidence for Christianity, but you might still be interested in his suggestions on how to train youth groups or on using the evidence to "make a case" when asked why you believe. However, I'd mainly recommend this book to Christians who aren't very familiar with the evidence supporting their faith.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5 by Michael L. Brown

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Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5
by Michael L. Brown


ISBN-13: 9781881022862
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: Purple Pomegranate Productions
Released: Nov. 5, 2015

Source: Bought from a store.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In the fifth and final volume of his series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Dr. Michael Brown refutes the traditional Jewish concept that there is a binding, authoritative Oral Law going back to Moses. While showing great respect for his people's traditions, Brown demonstrates that when there is a conflict between the Bible and tradition, Jews are called to follow the Bible.


My Review:
Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 5 "refutes the traditional Jewish concept that there is a binding, authoritative Oral Law going back to Moses." The author wrote as if talking directly to a traditional Jew who believes in the Oral Torah. He started each section with a defense commonly given for the Oral Law, then he described why this defense isn't convincing or accurate.

I'm not a Jew and was simply interested in learning what the Oral Torah referred to. Since the author assumed that the reader is well informed about the Oral Torah, my questions weren't directly answered. However, I did get an idea of what it is, how it developed, and what traditional Jews think about it.

The author was very detailed and exhaustive in his responses, looking at example after example. That's good if you're talking with someone who knows all of the counter-arguments, but it's more than I can easily remember if I wanted to argue the case myself. Still, I do remember many of the overall points he made. I suspect it's a good book in terms of doing what the author intended. However, I'm wondering just how many people who are that devoted to the Oral Torah would be open to reading his arguments.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

30 Days in the Land of the Psalms by Charles H. Dyer

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30 Days in the Land of the Psalms
by Charles H. Dyer


ISBN-13: 9780802415691
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: May 2, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The psalms are among the church’s finest treasures, a collection of writings where many find solace, comfort, and hope. Yet some psalms refer to places and objects modern readers have never seen and can’t picture. Until now. From author and renowned Israel expert Dr. Charles H. Dyer comes a devotional that brings selected psalms to life. Each entry features a beautiful, full-color photo of a Holy Land site, a suggested reading from Scripture, and a reflection that incorporates Dr. Dyer's knowledge of the land.


My Review:
30 Days in the Land of the Psalms is a 30-day devotional on the Psalms. You read the selected psalm in your own Bible, then read Dyer's comments and application. He often started an entry by describing a stop as if we were on a tour of the Holy Land. He described aspects of the psalm that people who haven't visited Israel may have trouble visualizing or might misunderstand. There were full-color pictures of the different places under discussion, though many of these were different views of Jerusalem or the wilderness.

This devotional covered Psalms 1, 11, 18, 20, 22, 23, 30, 42, 43, 46, 48, 56, 84, 90, 91, 96, 100, 102, 118, 120, 121, 122, 125, 127, 131, 133, 134, 136, 147, and 150. Overall, I'd recommend this devotional, but I felt like I gained more insights from the author's Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus devotional.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Friday, April 21, 2017

NIV Faithlife Study Bible, Standard Print

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NIV Faithlife Study Bible
Standard Print


ISBN-13: 9780310080572
Hardcover: 2704 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Filled with innovative graphics and rich commentary, this visually stunning study Bible delivers helpful insights designed to inform your faith. Robust study notes are built on the original languages and adapted from the popular Faithlife Study Bible app. The balance of striking graphics, comprehensive study features, and intriguing insights from multiple points of view will keep you curious as you explore the treasures of God’s Word.

Features include:

-The full text of the most read, most trusted modern-English Bible – the New International Version (NIV)

-In depth book introductions that include an outline and information on authorship, background, structure, themes, and a map, a timeline, or both

-Verse-by-verse study notes with the unique focus of revealing nuances from the original biblical languages for modern readers

-Informative contributions by respected scholars and best-selling authors including Charles Stanley, Randy Alcorn, and Ed Stetzer, among others

-Over 100 innovative full color infographics, comprehensive timelines and informative tables to enrich Bible study. Three detailed life-of-Jesus event timelines chronicling his infancy and early ministry, the journey to Jerusalem, and the passion and resurrection. 27 family trees and people diagrams illustrate the interconnectedness of key characters in Scripture


My Review:
NIV Faithlife Study Bible is a New International Version with copious study notes. These notes included word studies, information on people and places mentioned in the verses, and cultural or historical background information. It also had maps, timelines, family tree charts, tables comparing different theological views, and infographics showing things like a fishing boat, ancient Israelite house, and royal seals of Judah.

It sounded like the study notes would focus on helping the reader understand the text for themselves rather than telling the reader what to think about the verses. In the New Testament, that was generally true and I felt the notes and graphics were interesting and helpful. It's in the Old Testament--especially early Genesis--that I had some problems.

The Old Testament notes often assumed that other Ancient Near Eastern beliefs deeply influenced the biblical narrative and beliefs. I believe that Genesis preserves the true history of the universe, and any similarities found in ancient myths are degraded forms of that true history. So I had problems with statements like "this reflects an understanding common in the ancient Near East" about how the universe worked, and then the verse was explained using New Eastern beliefs. And we're told that "the deep" in Genesis 1:2 refers to chaos and a chaos deity, thus God created chaos and so "the chaos is part of what God deems 'very good'" All because the word for "the deep" is somewhat similar to the name of a chaos deity in a religion that existed around the time of Moses.

The notes sometimes provided a look at a various viewpoints. In early Genesis, they gave more information about views that don't favor the plainly intended meaning of a verse. So we're told that the author of Genesis 1:5 specifies the length of the day with "evening and there was morning," but then they immediately say it could really mean any length of time. They could have simply stated the nonliteral interpretations rather than making it clear that they favor a nonliteral view. The notes for Noah's Flood mention that there is evidence that backs up a global flood and the verses clearly indicate such, but then basically say that a global flood is still questionable. I would have preferred it if the notes just stated the various views or that there are similarities with other religions rather than telling us what to think.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Graphic Example:



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation by Robert Morgan

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Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation
by Robert Morgan


ISBN-13: 9780718083373
Hardback: 192 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. — Psalm 19:14

Do you long to deepen your intimacy with the Lord? To find a sense of soul-steadying peace? To develop emotional strength? Then you will need to pause long enough to be still and know He is God. Trusted Pastor Robert Morgan leads us through a journey into biblical meditation, which, he says, is thinking Scripture—not just reading Scripture or studying Scripture or even thinking about Scripture—but thinking Scripture, contemplating, visualizing, and personifying the precious truths God has given us.

The practice is as easy and portable as your brain, as available as your imagination, as near as your Bible, and the benefits are immediate. As you ponder, picture, and personalize God’s Word, you begin looking at life through His lens, viewing the world from His perspective. And as your thoughts become happier and holier and brighter, so do you.


My Review:
Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation examines the practice of meditating on Scripture. The author started by explaining what biblical meditation is and the many benefits of practicing it (like peace, energy, hope, insights, etc.). He talked about biblical and modern examples of people who practiced biblical meditation and provided "quick tips" about practicing Biblical meditation. He also explained how to meditate on Scripture by pondering, personifying, and practicing the verses to help you to internalize these truths and gain God's perspective on life.

While it seemed like much of the book focused on convincing the reader to take up (and stick with) biblical meditation, I did feel comfortable that I could do it after completing this book. I enjoyed the 10-day meditation guide at the end, which takes you step-by-step through the "ponder, personify, practice" process using some verses quoted in the book. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

Side note: He included a story about having trouble sleeping once due to a sudden fear that popped into his mind, but meditating on a Scripture verse allowed him to fall back to sleep. I've been struggling with fears popping into my head when I'm trying to sleep, but I've been able to remain calm since I started pondering Bible verses as I go to bed. I felt like that story was just for me.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dawn of Christianity by Robert J. Hutchinson

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The Dawn of Christianity
by Robert J. Hutchinson


ISBN-13: 9780718079420
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: March 14, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
The Dawn of Christianity tells the story of the last week of Jesus' life and the first few years after his death and resurrection. Using the most recent studies by top Christian and secular scholars, Robert Hutchinson reconstructs all of the known accounts of the witnesses to the resurrection and the initial years afterward, when they spread the word about what they had witnessed.


My Review:
The Dawn of Christianity is a "narrative retelling" of the last week of Jesus' life and of the first few years after his death and resurrection. The author used direct quotes from the Bible, summarized what happened, or created a fictional narrative of what might have happened. However, this is a commentary rather than pure narrative.

While talking about events, the author provided information about the political situation of the time and archeological discoveries. For example, he described what the temple looked like and the likely location of the crucifixion along with details about crucifixion. The author also talked about what skeptics of the Bible have thought and now think about various passages.

While he usually said "some skeptics doubted" or similar phrases, a few times he said "scholars doubted"--like anyone who believed the accuracy of the Bible couldn't be counted as a scholar. He also tried to explain away the supernatural elements. If Jesus raised someone from the dead, that person wasn't really dead but asleep and Jesus just revived them. (Happily, Jesus' resurrection was not explained away using this argument.) According to the author, Jesus just assumed that anyone criticizing the system would end up dead--yet he held out hope he'd avoid death and considered running away to a foreign country. He also had Jesus secretly arranging things like the use of the donkey and the Upper Room and keeping this information from his closest followers for security reasons.

The part about the first few years of the early church was mostly a summary of events described in Acts along with some political background information. The commentary effort was mostly spent on the events right before and after the crucifixion. There are plenty of books that cover that material and do so in a way that's easier to read (as this had a more academic tone).


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.