Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Transformation

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by Bob Roberts Jr.

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-32608-3
Trade Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: 2006, 2010

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The first-century church miraculously transformed a world steeped in plurality, immorality, and poverty. How? People lived transformed lives for the world to see; they impacted the church, community, and eventually the whole world. With God's help, churches today can do the same! But it won't come about through a new church program. It will come through a new church culture--a culture of transformation.

Pastor and church-planter Bob Roberts Jr. sees transformation in two spheres that are intimately connected to one another: the transformed life of the believer, which leads to a transformed world. Read Transformation, and you'll catch a vision for how your church can escape the routine and have both local and global impact for God's kingdom through the power of changed lives.

My Review:
Transformation is targeted at pastors to encourage them to create a church culture focused on transformation that impacts "lives, churches, and the world." It's easy to understand and has some good points (which I've also read in other books). It also has a few points that I haven't heard before, especially regarding church planting. I'd recommend this book to pastors more interested in seeing an increase in transformed lives than in the purely numerical growth of their church.

The various chapters were about: everyone is a missionary (through their "normal" work); transformation starts on the inside and works out; transformation comes about through the following relationships: you & God, you & a Christian community, and you reaching the world through your job.

How the church can impact the non-Christian community around them: have members live Christianity as a lifestyle (living dependent on & "tuned in" to God); affect both local and world-wide communities; plant new churches with the intent that those churches will also plant new churches; work with other churches; and support diversity within the church (so everyone is using their strengths to complete kingdom work).

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.

Read the first 30 pages.

Monday, January 24, 2011

This made me laugh


When I see "evolution" in advertising, I've always wondered why the designers didn't object like in this cartoon!

(Cartoon from AiG newsletter.)

Book Review: Deeper into the Word

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Deeper into the Word:
Reflections on 100 Words From the New Testament
by Keri Wyatt Kent

ISBN-13: 878-0-7642-0842-3
Trade Paperback: 247 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: Jan. 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Translators have done their best to render the words of the Bible into English, but capturing the nuances of the ancient languages is an inexact science. Kent gives readers an opportunity to investigate the roots and biblical context of the words within the Word. Deeper into the Word is a fascinating devotional, but it can also be used as an accessible reference tool, as it explores 100 of the most important words of the New Testament. Kent unpacks each word's Greek origins, shows how it is used in the Bible, and offers insights into its significance in our lives.

My Review:
Deeper into the Word can be used as a devotional or a Bible reference tool. Each entry was about 2.25 pages long and read like a devotional, so I'd recommend using it like that. The author explored 101 English words/topics.

The author took an English word and then explained which Greek words were usually translated as that English word. She explained the nuances of each Greek word and gave examples of where it was used in the New Testament. She also gave some cultural context for the word and an overview of what the New Testament (and, sometimes, the Old Testament) said about the topic. I was impressed by how well the author captured the tensions in Scripture. She also discussed how to apply what we learned about the word.

The book was written for those who have never studied Greek but who want to dig deeper, and I'd highly recommend this book to that audience.

The words studied: Afraid; Anoint; Apostle; Believe; Bless/Blessed/Blessing; Blind; Body; Bread; Break/Broken; Burden; Call/Called/Calling; Care; Chosen; Church; Clean/Cleanse; Compassion; Content/Contentment; Covenant; Cross; Daughter; Deacon; Death/Die; Disciple; Doubt; Eye/Eyes; Faith/Faithful; Father; Fellowship; Fill/Fulfill/Fullness; Fire; Forgive/Forgiven/Forgiveness; Free/Freedom; Friend; Fruit; Gift/Gifts; Good/Goodness; Gospel; Grace; Harvest; Holy Spirit; Hope; Humble; Hungry; Inheritance; Joy; Justify/Justification; Lamb; Light; Love; Mercy; Messiah; Miracle; New; One Another; Parable; Patience/Patient; Peace; Persecute/Persecution; Perseverance; Pharisee; Power; Pray; Preach; Prepare; Promise; Proud/Pride; Quiet; Reconciliation; Religion/Religious; Remain; Repent; Rest; Resurrection; Righteousness; Rock; Sabbath; Sacrifice; Salt; Salvation; Seek; Self-Control; Serve/Service; Sheep/Shepherd; Sin; Son of Man; Soul; Spirit; Strength; Temptation; Thirst/Thirsty; Truth; Understand; Vine/Vineyard; Water; Way; Wise/Wisdom; Witness; Wonder/Wonders; Word; Work/Works; Yoke.

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.

Read the first 33 pages using Google Preview.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Quote: Blessings from God

From A Simple Blessing: The Extraordinary Power of an Ordinary Prayer by Michael W. Smith with Tom Williams (from Chapter One):

God never promised us a rose garden. At least, not in this life. He did give us a perfect garden once, and we—that is, our distant grandparents Adam and Eve—messed it up. Now we must live with that mess. But God promises that if we will deal with that mess in his way and, by his grace, contend with the weeds and thorns and rust and rot, he will bless us. Not necessarily by taking all the problems away, but by shaping us into his image as we press through those problems. Even as we walk through the greatest hardships of life, we have the assurance that God will eventually lead us to that new and perfect garden we long for after we finish our term here. Jesus himself made the promise: "I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3 NASB).

This promise of perfection in the future does not mean God has no blessings for us here and now. Not by a long shot! In fact, God promises that if we uphold his truth and walk in his ways, he will give us not only that new garden in the future, but also real joy in this life now (John 10:10). What we need to learn, however, is that joy is not dependent on getting every desire met—that is, not those desires that infect us from the virus of today's me-culture.

Real joy comes when we get the right desire met—the desire for God himself, for a life led by the Spirit, fulfilling not our material desires but our deepest need, which is to be in a close relationship with our Creator. That is the source of true blessing. The only source.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Food at the Time of the Bible

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Food at the Time of the Bible:
From Adam's Apple to the Last Supper
by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

ISBN: 965-280-115-1
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Palphot Ltd.
Released: December 16, 2007

Source: Checked out of my local library.

Book Description from Goodreads (modified):
What did people eat at the time of the Bible? How did they grow their food, store it, and prepare it? What are the symbolic meanings behind various foods? This is an easy-to-read survey of every aspect of food in the Bible, accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photographs. The book examines each type of food, starting with the seven species that grow in the Holy Land, and continues with fish, meat and milk, fruit, vegetables and sweets. At the end of the book is a section on recipes which could have been prepared in ancient times.

My Review:
Food at the Time of the Bible is a Bible background book focusing on food and eating. It had nice full-color pictures and illustrations of the various foods, animals, and harvest & storage methods mentioned in the text. The author used the Bible, the Mishnah and Talmud (oral law), and archaeological findings to describe what people ate during Bible times (especially in Jesus' lifetime). There were 11 recipes in the text which used Bible verses to provide the ingredients while the author filled in the missing amounts. At the end of the book, there were an additional 36 recipes (from bread to sweets) also based on Bible or Mishnah cooking descriptions. They allow you to sample what the food was like back then.

The topics were covered with some detail--probably with as much detail as is available. Still, me being me, I would have liked to know even more. The topics covered were dining customs; grain & bread; grapes, wine, vinegar, & beer; olives & olive oil; fruits (dates, figs, pomegranates, carobs, citron, walnuts, almonds, peaches, apples, plums, apricots, & caper); vegetables; fish; (livestock) meat; milk, cheese, & other milk products; sweets (honey, etc.); herbs & spices; storing & preserving food; the last supper; and biblical measures & food costs.

The book was easy to read and interesting, and I would recommend it. However, I was disappointed that the author placed archeology (human interpretation) over the Bible. She used a timeline that went back past 6000 BC, said things like "some people say that humans didn't used to eat meat based on Genesis 1 & 2" like she thought humans have always eaten meat, and twice said that Jericho is "the world's oldest city."

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 from Chapter Two
The Hebrew Scriptures contain numerous references to meals, both simple and sumptuous. The Bible relates that when the Queen of Sheba--apparently no pauper herself according to the entourage she brought with her--saw the food on the king's table, "she was overwhelmed" (1 Kings 10:5). No wonder, for 1 Kings 4:22-23 tells us that, "Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl."

The simplest meal in the Bible is perhaps the bread and water consumed by the "man of God from Judah" in Kings 13:19.

A simple peasant's meal is amply illustrated by the menu at the first "lunch date" of Ruth and Boaz, bread dipped in wine vinegar and toasted grain (Ruth 2:14), all of which could be easily transported to the fields and consumed on a break in the farmer's workday.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: Nelson's Biblical Cyclopedic Index

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Nelson's Biblical Cyclopedic Index:
The Best Bible Subject Index Ever
by Thomas Nelson

ISBN-13: 978-1-4185-4374-7
Paperback: 540 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: June 1, 2010

Source: Booksneeze provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Nelson’s Biblical Cyclopedic Index offers more word listings than any other Bible resource available. Designed for use with any Bible and originating from the best-selling and trusted The Open Bible, it combines the best features of a concordance, topical Bible, and Bible dictionary into one unique reference book.

Nelson’s Biblical Cyclopedic Index will help you easily pull together a thorough and comprehensive Bible study, lesson, or sermon with more than 8,000 subjects, names, places, things, concepts, events, and doctrines of the Bible, plus 300 word studies!

My Review:
Nelson's Biblical Cyclopedic Index is a Bible reference tool. I usually use free, online resources to study the Bible. However, sometimes I don't have the internet available or don't want to do my studying in front of a screen. I also have friends who don't have internet access, so I was interested in this Cyclopedic Index.

The index words (including names, places, concepts, and more) were listed in English alphabetical order. The English word was listed, then the definition or meaning of the word, then the type of reference in the Bible with the verse it's in. (For example, Love, Christian -> Toward others -> Commanded by Christ....John 13:34.) The listings were based on the English word, so, for example, the Hebrew and Greek words usually translated as "dog" were mixed together under the "Dogs" listing.

However, the listings aren't exhaustive. For example, under the "Love" listings, Galatians 5:23 wasn't referred to though the verse contains the word "love." (Note: This verse was listed under "Fruit of the Spirit" under "defined.") Also, the listings for Love (under categories "Christian," "of Christ", and "of God") didn't give a single Old Testament reference, even when referring to the First and Second Commandments.

There were some sporadic word studies throughout the book. In each word study, we're given the English word, a transliteration of the chosen "original language" word it's translated from, how to pronounce that word, the definition of the word, examples of where the word is used in the Bible, and the Strong's number for the word. Which words got word studies seemed almost random. For example, under the "Love" listing, only one (Greek) word for love was studied. The word study sections also didn't tell if the original word was Hebrew, Greek, or what, though it's easy enough to figure out. Also, sometimes all of the possible definitions of the word were listed together rather than separated (by 1., 2., 3., like in dictionaries) by possible meanings based on context. This could potentially be confusing.

The book is a nice, easy-to-hold size. This also means that the font is small, but it's clear and easy-to-see. I do think this book will quickly and effectively help a person create a topical sermon or Bible study. Just keep in mind that this index isn't exhaustive.

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 from page 304:
Word Study: Love, agape (ag-ah-pay). Noun meaning "love." It can be used to denote a person's love for God (John 5:42; 1 John 2:15), God's love for humanity (Rom. 5:8), and God's love for Jesus (John 15:10; 17:26). Jesus reveals His love for believers by laying down His life, and He commands that believers love each other (John 15:9-13). A cornerstone of the NT teachings about God is that "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16; cf. 2 Cor. 13:11). (Strong's #26)

Love, Christian
Toward God:
First commandment.............Matt.22:37,38
With all the heart...................Matt. 22:37
More important than ritual....Mark 12:31-33
Gives boldness....................1 John 4:17-19
Must love his brother............1 John 4:20,21

B. Toward Christ:
Sign of true faith....................John 8:42
Manifested in obedience.....John 14:15,21,23
Leads to service...................2 Cor. 5:14

C. Toward others:
Second command...............Matt. 22:37-39
Commanded by Christ.......John 13:34
Described in detail.............1 Cor. 13:1-13

Read more, from the A's.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Want to know more about the shofar?

Here are two fun YouTube videos I found on the shofar.

Shofar Blowing 101 (short shofar)

The Four 4 Traditional Shofar Blasts (long shofar)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

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Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus:
A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ
by Wayne Stiles

ISBN-13: 978-0-8307-4661-3
Hardback: 192 pages
Publisher: Regal
Released: 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
Imagine following Jesus along the road, listening in on His conversations and learning the lessons He taught in the holy places He traveled. Join author Wayne Stiles as he walks in the steps of Jesus through Bethlehem, Samaria, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Caesarea, and beyond. Sit with Jesus beside a well with a lonely woman in Samaria, meet in the darkness with a Jerusalem Pharisee searching for truth, befriend a group of fishermen with a sea of false expectations, and return with Him to a hometown tragically ready to reject the announcement of His kingdom.

As you experience the Holy Land through the sights, tastes and sounds of Stiles’s engaging personal travelogue, you will not only discover more about these sacred places, you’ll see how their history and landscape influenced the lessons Christ taught His earliest listeners. By retracing the windswept roads Jesus took during His earthly life and ministry, you will encounter Him in a fresh and vital way and grow to a greater understanding of His will for your life.

My Review:
Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus is a description of Wayne Stiles' travels in the Holy Land, and he describes the modern sites in the order Jesus would have encountered them. I've traveled to Israel, and this travelogue accurately portrayed what traveling in Israel is like. The author's style was entertaining, and his faith lessons insightful, but I'd expected more detail on what the actual sites looked like.

The author gave a brief description of what the modern site looked like, the quirky people there, what happened there (in the Bible), some historical and cultural background to the events, and a faith lesson based on the site and events that happened there. He also described the shopping stops and more mundane traveling moments. There were 11 black and white pictures from his trips and 3 black and white maps.

At the back, there was a Scripture Index and a Site Index. This book reminded me of the "That The World Many Know" DVD series. I like the faith lesson better in this book, but I think you get a better sense of what a site looks like by watching the "That The World Many Know" DVD series.

The main places in this book were Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity), Timna Park (tabernacle replica), Beth-Semesh (landscape), Shiloh (ruins of city), Jerusalem (model of temple mount, Western Wall, tunnel at Western Wall, a bar mitzvah, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Cardo St., via Dolorosa, Upper Room, "Tomb of David," Church of St. Peter in Gallicanta, Monastery of the Flagellation), Jordan River (baptism sites), wilderness of Judea, Dead Sea Scroll caves, church where Moses lifted up the bronze serpent, Samaria (Jacob's well), Nazareth (Church of the Annunciation), Nof Ginosar museum ("Jesus" boat), Sea of Galilee (ride on replica of Jesus-era boat), Capernaum, Bethsaida, Gamla, the ancient International Highway/via Maris, Hazor, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Mt. Hermon, Perea region, Jericho, Mount of Olives (Dominus Flevit church, Church of All Nations, Garden of Gethsemane), Tabgha (church of the Primacy of St. Peter), Mount Arbel, Ephesus, Patmos (Monastery of St. John).

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.

Read an excerpt using Google Preview.