Saturday, December 24, 2011

Walk the Land by Judith Galblum Pex

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Walk the Land:
My Journey on Foot through Israel
by Judith Galblum Pex

ISBN-13: 9780975961957
Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Cladach Publishing
Released: July 28, 2007

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Come with John and Judy Pex as they hike the 600-mile Israel National Trail from the Egyptian to the Lebanese borders. During 42 days of trekking through spectacular scenery, Arab towns and villages, past Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian holy sites, they discover:
  • Sights seldom seen by tourists
  • Physical challenges and spiritual tests
  • Cultural encounters and historical insights
  • Lessons about peace, faith, and endurance.

Included are 16 pages of color photos of scenes from the Trail

My Review:
Walk the Land describes the travels of a middle aged couple as they hike the Israel Trail from the south of Israel to the north. It's not a hiking guide--the author didn't directly talk about what to bring or give hiking tips, though some of that information can be gleaned from the narrative. And while you can pick up information about what the land looks like and what hiking it is like, the narrative really focused on relationships.

She talked about how the lessons she learned on the trail were related to her walk with Christ. She talked about the various people they met on the trail and what they talked with them about (which was mainly about the upcoming trail and the fact that the author and her husband believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah). And she talked about the challenges of hiking with her husband--since they have very different personalities--and how it strengthened their relationship.

Overall, I found the book interesting and worth reading, though I'd been hoping for a more detailed description of the land. I'd recommend this book to those interested in the culture, the places, and the people of Israel.

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 from Chapter One.

King of the Jews by D. Thomas Lancaster

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King of the Jews:
Resurrecting the Jewish Jesus
by D. Thomas Lancaster

ISBN-13: 9781892124241
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: First Fruits of Zion
Released: June 1, 2006

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
While stripping back centuries of cultural misinterpretations, Lancaster reveals the historical Jewish Jesus in vivid new strokes and colors that fire the heart and deepen devotion to Him. King of the Jews digs into the history and literature of early Judaism to demonstrate the authenticity of the Gospels and to dispel today's errant re-interpretations of Jesus.

My Review:
King of the Jews is a Bible background book written by a messianic Jew. While I have no doubt that the author accepts Yeshua as the promised Messiah, some of his comments seem to indicate a belief that the Law is what saves and what Jesus came to do was to call people to repent and follow the Law. I have a problem with that. On the other hand, he does believe that the New Testament is an accurate record (which I agree with).

The author picked certain parables and events in the gospels that he felt he could make clearer or correct a common misinterpretation of by comparing it to related sayings by rabbis of around the same time period. Some of his explanations were, indeed, very interesting and enlightening. Sometimes he "corrected" an interpretation I'd never heard to one I already held--or held something very close to--just from reading the Bible. For some of the explanations, I couldn't follow how the points he explained related to (or cleared up) the verses in the Bible. And, finally, for some explanations, it seemed like a stretch to say they were what Jesus was actually referring to.

So I found maybe a third of the book to be excellent, but the rest was confusing or something I didn't agree with. This book is better than some of the Bible background books I've read, but I've also read many that are better (like Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus).

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 Amazon's Search Inside This Book feature.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey

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Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes:
Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians
by Kenneth E. Bailey

ISBN-13: 9780830839346
Paperback: 590 pages
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Released: 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher (and requested through a freelance publicist).

Book Description from Goodreads:
In this study of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, Kenneth Bailey examines this canonical letter through Paul's Jewish socio-cultural and rhetorical background and through the Mediterranean context of its Corinthian recipients.

My Review:
Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is a very thick commentary on 1 Corinthians. From the title, I expected a book focused on the cultural background of 1 Corinthians that would help us better understand Paul's points. However, the main focus was on the rhetorical style used in 1 Corinthians.

The author carefully constructed charts showing how the 1 Corinthians format matched that of the Old Testament prophets. He claimed that understanding this format would help us better understand the meaning of Paul's words. To be honest, I sometimes couldn't easily see why the sentences were arranged in that format (except that's where they should be to fit the format) and ended up feeling stupid and confused (rather than enlightened) by seeing the rhetorical format laid out. Perhaps those who already have some background in rhetorical styles in the Bible would find it more enlightening.

The author also gave a commentary on the verses. While interesting, his comments didn't stand out to me as memorable nor did I feel like I'd gained new insight into the verses. When the author did mention how Middle Easterners might have understood the verses (so as to increase our understanding), I found it interesting and thought-provoking but rarely enlightening. Also, some of the things he said might explain the verses, but I've read Bible background books that give different explanations that seem to fit the text better.

So, overall, the book contained some interesting information, but I didn't feel like reading it cleared up any potential confusions I had about 1 Corinthians. It was more than it pointed out possible nuances that I might not have otherwise noticed.

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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Heart Like His by Beth Moore

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A Heart Like His
by Beth Moore

ISBN-13: 978-0-8054-2035-7
Hardback: 300 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers
Released: 1999, 2003

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Goodreads:
He was a man loved and anointed by God, and his life serves as an example—both good and bad—for Christians in every time and place. In this in-depth look at the life of David, Beth Moore draws spiritual insight and understanding from a man who slayed a giant and saved a kingdom.

This book guides readers on an exciting and informative journey through virtually every twist and turn of David’s life as a shepherd, refugee, and king. Moore introduces readers to the heart of a man whose triumphs and sins were foundation blocks of God’s plan and prophecy and shows readers how to better serve God by understanding their own unique relationship to Him.

My Review:
A Heart Like His is basically an easy-to-read commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel with the main focus on David. Due to the short chapters and content, I think it'd make a great daily devotional. (It has 52 chapters, if you're interested in doing a chapter a day.)

Each chapter covered a section of 1 or 2 Samuel (in order). The author would quote a part of the text--and a related Psalm, if there was one--and then give a summary of the rest of text. The author then commented on the events and how to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of those in the text. There were some review questions at the end of the book.

While I liked this book, I didn't feel like I gained new insights to the passages or in my walk with Christ. I like Beth Moore's other books better. However, other people might get more out of this book than I did, so I would recommend it to those who like Beth Moore books.

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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Blessed Hope by George Eldon Ladd

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The Blessed Hope:
A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture
by George Eldon Ladd

ISBN: 978-0-8028-1111-0
Trade Paperback: 167 pages
Publisher: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Released: 1956

Source: Bought through

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Jesus Christ is coming again! That is the Blessed Hope which has since the earliest days of the church energized biblical Christians looking for the full revelation of God’s redemption But devout believers have often disagreed about the nature of the second coming of the Lord.

Through its many printings, this book by George Eldon Ladd has proved to be a helpful guide for Christians who want to discern clearly the basic biblical teachings about the Blessed Hope. Writing not for scholars as much as the men and women in the pews, Ladd--whose numerous studies of New Testament interpretation earned him the reputation of being one of contemporary evangelicalism’s leading thinkers--sketches the history of interpretations of Christ’s second coming and then carefully and lucidly examines the biblical passages on which this doctrine is based.

Ladd’s conclusion is that the blessed hope is the second coming of Jesus Christ, not a pretribulation rapture of believers in a secret coming of Jesus. Yet he concludes, too, that there should be liberty and charity within the Christian community for all who hold to the expectation of “the blessed hope and appearing in glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

My Review:
The Blessed Hope carefully studies the Bible to see if a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church is clearly taught there or if it is equally or even more clearly taught that Christians will go through the Tribulation and be "raptured" only at the end when Jesus returns in glory.

He starts with quotes of what early Christians wrote about Revelation in this regard. He also chronicles how the pre-Tribulation idea first appeared and was promoted around 1831. The author then looked at the verses referring to the blessed hope, Jesus' glorious return, and the rapture as well as the verses pre-Tribulationists use to support their views. He showed that a pre-Tribulation Rapture is, at best, an inference and how the verses used to support it can be understood to support a post-Tribulation view if read in context.

Personally, I've never been able to see a pre-Tribulation Rapture in the Bible despite being taught that by my church since I was a child. I found it interesting that this author used many of the same arguments that I had seen in my study of the Bible.

My mother also read this book. She couldn't see a pre-Tribulation Rapture taught in the Bible, either, but wanted to understand the arguments for it in case she was missing something. She liked that this book explained the pre-Tribulation Rapture argument, but it also pointed out the things she had noticed against it. She now feels confident that she's not missing some truth that she'd been overlooking that would compel belief in a pre-Tribulation Rapture.

The last chapter is somewhat dated as he referred to "current" views, and the book was written in 1956. Also, while I agree that sharing the gospel with the entire world is important, I believe this because that's what Jesus told us to. I don't agree with the author's view that Jesus is prevented from returning until Christians get their act together and have achieved a certain goal as to the number of nations that have heard the gospel. It is God that brings people to belief, and everything is coming about in His timing, not ours.

I think the book presented a very clear explanation about how a pre-Tribulation Rapture came to be taught and why a post-Tribulation "rapture" more solidly fits what the Bibles teaches about the end times. I'd recommend this book to everyone interested in the Rapture.

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 8 & 9 of the Introduction
We may designate this teaching by the word pretribulationism, because it teaches a pretribulation rapture of the Church so that it escapes the Tribulation. ... Many premillennialists believe that the Scriptures do not teach that Christ will return secretly to rapture the Church before the Tribulation. However, this teaching has been spread widely throughout American Fundamentalism through the godly influence of such men as James M. Gray, A.C. Gaebelein, R.A. Torrey, W.B. Riley, I.M. Haldeman, H.A. Ironside, L.S. Chafer, and many others.

No instrument has been more influential than the Scofield Reference Bible in implanting this view in the thinking of millions of Christians. Most of the Bible schools which have trained a host of young people in the Word of God have been devoted to this pattern of prophetic teaching, and the prophetic conference movement along with many summer Bible conferences has propagated this view. So deeply intrenched has it become that many pastors and Christian leaders have been lead to assume that this teaching has been an essential doctrine in the history of the Church extending back to apostolic times and has prevailed widely in all ages among believers who have had a sincere love for the Word of God and who have cherished the Blessed Hope of Christ's return.

Read from chapter one using Google Preview.

Monday, October 3, 2011

God's Appointed Times by Barney Kasdan

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God's Appointed Times:
A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays
by Barney Kasdan

ISBN-13: 978-1-880226-35-3
Trade Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Lederer Books
Released: 1993

Source: Bought from Books-A-Million.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The biblical holy days are not just for Jews. Christians, too, can receive the blessing of these glorious days, the greatest object lessons in the Bible.

God gave each day to teach his people about him and his relationship to them. From the Sabbath, which pictures eternity, to the popular holiday, Hanukkah, mentioned by name only in the gospel of John, the special times were set apart to bless the people of God.

In this book, Barney Kasdan, leader of Kehilat Ariel of San Diego, one of the largest Messianic congregations in the world, explains every holy day described in Scripture. He teaches about the major and minor holy days, ever mindful that he is writing to both Jews and Christians.

Beginning with the Sabbath, the first holy day revealed in Scripture, he writes about Passover, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, The Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah the Festival of Dedication, and Purim, the special day given in the time of Queen Esther.

Each chapter offers historical background, traditional Jewish observance, relevance to the New Testament, prophetic significance, and a practical guide for believers, including recipes, songs, and crafts.

My Review:
God's Appointed Times is a Bible background type book, but it's also for those who believe Yeshua is the Messiah who wish to celebrate these Feasts. The book covered Sabbath, Passover, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah, and Purim.

This book quoted some of the Bible verses in the Old Testament where God commands the people about these feasts and holy days. He gave the details about how observant Jews celebrate these feasts today. I liked how he explained the meaning behind each act, so it wasn't just meaningless ritual. He then pointed out places in the New Testament that referred to these Feasts, and he suggests how these Feasts are fulfilled in Yeshua, the Messiah. Finally, he suggested ways to modify the modern Feast celebrations to suit Messianic followers and included a couple recipes, songs, and related crafts.

The information given for the Spring Feasts is much what I've heard before, though I liked how he said Sabbath was for remembering that God is our Creator and our rest is in Him. However, the author believes that the Fall Feasts are related to Yeshua's birth as well as His Second Coming. I've read some articles by other authors stating that Jesus' birth occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles, but one of this author's arguments for it is actually a strong argument against it, in my view. Why would the Romans order a census that required people to go to their home towns at exactly the same time as their religion demanded that they go to Jerusalem for a Feast? They wouldn't; they knew better.

If you are interested in celebrating these feasts as a way to celebrate what Yeshua has done for us, then this book is very useful. However, if you're mainly interested in the mentions of the feasts in the Bible and how Yeshua fulfills the feasts, I think I'd recommend The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, instead.

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 One
The Sabbath

The Historical Background

The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.'" (Leviticus 23:1-3)

It might surprise some to see a discussion of the biblical holidays start with Shabbat. After all, this is such a common day. It occurs once a week. The Jewish perspective is different. It is not that Shabbat is so common, but that it is so special, that we are to observe it every seven days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ascent from Darkness by Michael Leehan

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Ascent from Darkness:
How Satan's Soldier Became God's Warrior
by Michael Leehan

ISBN-13: 9780849947032
Trade Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Oct. 4, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher that was requested through Booksneeze.

Book Description from Booksneeze:
A life of difficulty and disappointment set 33-year old Michael Leehan up for the worst decision of his life—to make a deal with the Devil to follow and serve him. Practicing the dark arts that include ritualistic cuttings and blood sacrifices, while fine tuning his manipulation and control skills, Michael launched into a twenty year downward spiral that included job loss and detachment from loved ones, and even jail time.

But God had another plan that included a group of Christian men to love him and pray for him—even when it became evident his assignment from Satan was to kill their pastor, Craig Groeschel.

The life Michael Leehan lives today is an incredible testimony of the transforming power of God's mercy and grace, but is also a wakeup call to the church to be fully aware of the spiritual war that is going on all around them, and to the ultimate battle for their souls.

"I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:18

My Review:
Ascent from Darkness is a memoir of a man who made a pact with Satan to serve him and who found that pact destroying his life. Still, Michael was afraid of giving up the power he thought his pact gave him, and he wasn't initially interested in surrendering to a God he'd been angry at since childhood. And Satan wasn't about to let Michael go serve his enemy.

It's a compelling story. Michael managed to describe the emotional and life-changing impact of his actions without getting into gory details about Satanic practices. In fact, he's very vague about many of the rituals he did (which I think was very wise for multiple reasons--for example, you can't learn how to do a satanist ritual by reading this book. And the book would have been much darker).

If you have a hard time believing in real, evil spiritual forces, you'll probably have a hard time believing this book. If you think everything bad has a demon behind it that needs to be cast out, you'll probably be disappointed. While Michael makes it clear that spiritual forces are all around us, what he describes is very in line with what the Bible teaches about angels, fallen angels, and how Christ can free those who surrender to Him.

I think this book is important for Christians to read because most don't really think about the spiritual battles being fought around them. Also, Michael talked about how, as a satanist, he'd go into churches and quote Scripture in ways to mislead Christians or try to disrupt Bible Studies by bringing up controversial subjects or by seducing the women. He pointed out something that has long concerned me: how churches tend to get people to say "the sinners prayer" and baptized but then don't make a point of mentoring them in the faith. This leaves new believers vulnerable to lies about God.

This is an excellent book, and I'd highly recommend it.

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 from chapter one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Insights on Revelation by Charles R. Swindoll

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Insights on Revelation
by Charles R. Swindoll

ISBN-13: 9780310284345
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: August 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher through a freelance publicist.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Combining rich, rock-solid scholarship with a storyteller's imagery and passion, Chuck Swindoll has a gift for sweeping people into the immediacy of the Scriptures. Featuring maps, timelines, Holy Land images, and more. God's Word will come alive for you, filled with drama, power, and truth.

My Review:
Insights on Revelation is a commentary on Revelation. While the previous book I read in this series (Insights on James, 1 & 2 Peter) read like a Bible study (with plenty of Bible background information and enlightening word studies), this book read more like a sermon. The style was more telling the reader what to think about the verses rather than helping the reader understand the verses so they can potentially form their own conclusions.

Rather than discuss the different beliefs about the rapture, Swindoll simply assumed that a pre-Tribulation rapture was true. In one place he said that we're not told exactly what all the symbols mean so we shouldn't get dogmatic about them or that prophecy isn't always given in chronological order, then a little bit later he'd say that such-and-such a symbol means this or things happened in this specific order and timing when the text didn't even hint at that.

He also proposed some ideas I've never heard of before and which don't line up with what the whole Bible teaches, in my opinion. For example, he believes in four separate waves of resurrections with separate times of Judgment for each group.

If you agree with him or just want someone to tell you what to believe, then this won't bother you. However, there were times that I felt the author let his theology force his interpretation of the verses rather than letting the verses form his theology. This didn't happen much in the first half of the commentary (even in the initial prophecy sections), but it became more frequent in the last half.

The author explained who wrote Revelation, when it was written, and who it was written to. Then he took related chunks of the text and looked at each section as a whole and then verse-by-verse. At the end of each section, he discussed how we can apply the writer's message to our own lives. Since Swindoll doesn't believe that any true believer living today will live through the Tribulation, his application points for the prophetic part of Revelation were very general principles.

While his commentary on the messages-to-the-churches part of Revelation was good and mostly what I've heard preached before, I was disappointed by much of the commentary on the prophetic part. However, if you believe in the pre-Tribuation rapture of Christians, you'll probably like it.

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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Back to Books Giveaway Hop. Including Twitter entries, 19 people entered. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

captainliss40 who won The New Answers Book, Vol. 2

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore or see if they have it at your local library.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop

As a part of the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop, you can enter to win one of the following two books. This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

book coverHow Do We Know the Bible is True? edited by Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge.

In this book, over 20 relevant issues are discussed including: Is the Bible totally without error? Did the resurrection really happen? How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? Does the Bible contradict itself? How were people saved before Jesus came? What is the purpose and meaning of life? Did miracles really happen? Was Genesis derived from ancient myths? How should we interpret the Bible; should Genesis be literal? Do you have to believe in a young earth to be saved?

book coverThe New Answers Book, Vol. 2 edited by Ken Ham.

This book explores over 30 exciting and faith-affirming topics, including: The fall of Lucifer and the origin of evil When does life begin (and why does it matter)? Is evolution a religion (and why should I care)? Archaeology, Egyptian Chronology, and the great flood. Could early biblical figures like Noah really live to over 900 years of age? What was the Star of Bethlehem (and how did the wise men follow it)?

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @christfocus. Enter me in the giveaway for [title of the book you wish to win]."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and stating which book you'd like to win. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

This giveaway ends September 7th at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on September 8th on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within seven days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The World of the Early Church by Simon Jones

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The World of the Early Church
by Simon Jones

ISBN-13: 978-0-7459-5500-1
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Lion Hudson
Released: March 2011

Link to Kregel book page

Source: Review copy from Kregel.

Book Description from Cover:
In the first decades after Christ a small movement from the Middle East became an empire-wide phenomenon. Soon there were Christian communities from Jerusalem to Rome, all trying to figure out how to live their new-found faith. But how did they live their daily lives?

The World of the Early Church answers just this question, exploring what life was like for the first Christians. Surveying archaeological evidence and contemporary accounts, Simon Jones answers questions like:

  • What was the role of pagan religion?
  • What did people do for entertainment?
  • What was family life like?
  • How did they earn a living?
  • How was society structured?
  • What was the role of women?

Illustrated throughout with photographs, maps, and reproductions, The World of the Early Church is a fascinating survey that brings this period vividly to life.

My Review:
The World of the Early Church provides the social background information that will help you more fully understand the New Testament--mainly Acts and the letters to the churches. The author explained a lot of interesting information in an easy-to-understand way. He also did an excellent job of giving us a balanced view of what life was probably like while also acknowledging the various views out there.

He used archaeological findings and writings from the time to help explain what life was like, and he quoted some of the Roman writers on what life was like from their viewpoint. The text was illustrated with interesting full-color pictures of archeological finds and remains of ancient buildings, paintings, illustrations, reconstructions, and more.

The author also referred to passages in the New Testament that can be confusing and explained how the social context of the time helps to make sense of it. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book. I'm very impressed by it, enjoyed reading it, and plan to immediately read through it again.

Topics covered: city life, homes, work, food/eating, entertainment, social position, the family, Roman religion, and more.

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.

Table of Contents
Read an excerpt

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Daily Life at the Time of Jesus by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

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Daily Life at the Time of Jesus
by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

ISBN: 0-687-04891-5
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: 2001

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Information about daily life at the time of Jesus based on ancient writings and archeological evidence and illustrated with full-color photographs, drawings, and maps.

My Review:
Daily Life at the Time of Jesus gives Bible background information about daily life that helps readers better understand some things that are referred to in the gospels. The author based her information on ancient writings, the New Testament, and archeological findings. The text was accompanied by full-color maps of Israel, photographs taken around Israel and of archeological items, and illustrated artist reconstructions of daily life and buildings. There was also a timeline (with 4 B.C. for Herod's death, for those who are interested in that) and a family tree from King David to Jesus.

It's written at a level for Middle Schoolers to adults. I learned some new and interesting information, and I really liked the chart telling how much the various coins would have bought back then. Though each section was brief, this book covered some information I haven't seen elsewhere. Overall, I'd recommend this book.

The author started with a brief history of Herod the Great up to the time of Jesus. It then talked about Jerusalem, the Temple, the Sanhedrin, pilgrimage, the Antonia Fortress, the Roman Army, crucifixion, a wealthy household in Jerusalem, the village, a village house, working in the fields, domestic animals, the shepherd, olive press, blacksmith, carpenter, weaver, grain mill, synagogue, education, a wedding feast, food and drink, fishermen (including information about fishing net types and how to use them), a country manor, wine press, doctor, burying the dead, Qumran, balsam production, Dead Sea scrolls, Masada, mosaics, Herod's other palaces, Caesarea, a pagan temple, city gate and market, and money and prices.

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, July 21, 2011

On the Road With Jesus: Birth and Ministry by Ben Witherington III

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On the Road With Jesus:
Birth and Ministry
by Ben Witherington III

ISBN-13: 9781426712159
Trade Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: July 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Travel to the Holy Land with New Testament scholar Ben Witherington and experience the birth and ministry of Jesus. With the help of Dr. Witherington's knowledge and perspective, you will visit the places Jesus walked and ministered. You will learn about places such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and more.

My Review:
On the Road With Jesus is a Bible background book which discussed how the Jews of Jesus' time would have viewed Jesus and the events surrounding his birth, baptism, calling of his disciples, and early ministry. The author did give some insightful historical background information, some of which isn't frequently found in other books.

However, he did make some theological comments without spending much time defending his doctrinal position. So people from some denominations might be offended by his seemingly breezy dismissal of a doctrine held by them.

While most of the historical information he gave wasn't controversial, he did spend a lot of time arguing that Lazarus was the true author of the gospel of John. His argument was built on a lot of speculation rather than actual, solid evidence, and I found his argument highly unconvincing. Overall, I felt like the DVD by the same title would appeal to a wider audience as it didn't get sidetracked into controversial issues.

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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the Road With Jesus: Birth & Ministry DVD

DVD cover

On the Road With Jesus:
Birth and Ministry

Length: 51 minutes 14 seconds
Publisher: Abingdon Press
First Released: July 2011

Source:Review copy from the publisher.

Publisher's Description:
Travel to the Holy Land with New Testament scholar Ben Witherington and experience the birth and ministry of Jesus in this four-session video study.

Filmed throughout the places Jesus walked and dwelt among us, On the Road with Jesus, with Dr. Witherington's knowledge and perspective, will help you see God's grace at work and bring us back to lives of true meaning and purpose. As believers see places such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and more, our faith will be deepened while following along the paths Jesus journeyed during his world-changing life and ministry.

This DVD can be used in small group study with the book by the same name.

My Review:
Birth & Ministry is the first DVD of the "On the Road With Jesus" series. If you've never had a chance to travel around Israel and you can rent or borrow this DVD, then I'd highly recommend you do. It had some nice footage from a variety of places in Israel. Seeing this will help "bring the Bible alive," and the information discussed will help you better understand the gospels.

The host, Ben Witherington III, mainly focused on "Bible background" historical information relating to Jesus' birth and baptism, the Sea of Galilee, the wedding at Cana, and Nazereth. It was good, interesting information. Some of the information is fairly well-known, but some was less so. It was a nice balance. The host gave some of the same information as in the book by the same title, but there was a lot of different information on the DVD as well.

I was impressed with the smooth camerawork. The camera would slowly pan over what the host was talking about or pointing out so you could see the whole thing. It had a sort of "show and tell" format.

Session 1 - 11 minutes 2 seconds long - Talked about Jesus birth. We saw views of a farm field in Nazareth, Herodium from afar, the Judean wilderness, the Church of the Nativity, a shepherds field and sheep pen near Bethlehem, and a first century house.

Session 2 - 16 minutes 9 seconds long - Talked about John the Baptizer and Jesus' baptism. Views of the Dead Sea Scrolls cave, the Qumran community (ruins), the Jordan River, the Judean Wilderness, the Mount of Temptation and the Monastery of St. George.

Session 3 - 13 minutes 29 second long - Talked about Jesus calling his disciples, the Sea of Galilee, and some events in Jesus' ministry that took place around the Sea of Galilee. Views of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum (statue of Peter, the ruins of Peter's mother-in-law's house, and a synagogue), and water jars that were used for purification.

Session 4 - 10 minutes 34 seconds long - Talked about Sepphoris, synagogues, and Jesus' visit to Nazereth after his ministry started. Views of Sepphoris' synagogue, a first century synagogue in Nazereth, and the Mt. of Beattitudes.

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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Coming to Grips with Genesis by Dr. Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury

book cover

Coming to Grips with Genesis
by Dr. Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury

ISBN-13: 9780890515488
Trade Paperback: 486 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 2008, 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Fourteen theological scholars address key topics related to the age of the earth, which is the crucial issue of debate in the church today regarding origins. Bringing to bear rigorous biblical, theological, and historical arguments in favor of a six-day creation, the global Flood, and a young earth, they also provide much-needed critiques of a number of contemporary old-earth interpretations of the book of Genesis.

This fresh defense of the literal history of Genesis 1-11 nicely complements other studies which focus more on the scientific evidence of young-earth creationism. As such, this book can serve as a versatile supplement to other works, but is also designed to be used as a standalone text for seminary and Bible college professors and students, pastors, missionaries, and others who want in-depth apologetic resources.

Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth includes:

  • Forewords by Dr. John MacArthur, President of the Master?s Seminary and Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA; and the late Dr. Henry Morris, Founder and President Emeritus, Institute for Creation Research
  • Detailed analysis of the verbs of Genesis 1
  • A defense of the Genesis 5 & 11 genealogies as strict chronologies
  • Reasons for rejecting millions of years of death and natural evil before Adam's sin
  • Careful reflection on Jesus' teachings regarding a young earth

My Review:
Coming to Grips with Genesis is a collection of 14 articles discussing the different interpretations of Genesis 1-11. Though written by 14 separate scholars, there's surprisingly little overlap of material and a high consistency in quality.

It's written in a formal tone. Some articles get somewhat technical when talking about the original language, and the authors assume you know something about Hebrew grammar. However, the footnotes explain a technical point in more detail for those who don't know this information. There's excellent footnoting, so you always know where the information or quote came from. I also liked that the authors quoted the people in question so the reader could see for themselves what was said. Overall, if you have questions about the topics covered or want to be better able to argue the points, then I'd highly recommend this book.

Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 14 explored how Christian theological leaders before the 19th century viewed Genesis 1-11, especially how long they thought God took to create everything. Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 discussed the different ways Genesis 1 & 2 are interpreted, how to properly interpret Scripture as a whole and how that applies to Genesis 1 & 2, and is nature/general revelation equal in authority to Scripture/special revelation.

Chapter 9 talked about Noah's Flood, especially about the timeline of what happened and what one would expect to find now in the rock layers as a result of the Flood. Chapter 10 discussed the type of genealogies are in Genesis 5 and 11 and how accurate they are for chronological purposes. Chapter 11 and 12 pointed out how Jesus and the apostles viewed Genesis (as real history and real people or otherwise). Chapter 13 discussed how having death and suffering before creation was completed (as long geological ages demands) affects Christian theology.

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 One:
The opening chapters of Genesis are the most foundational in all of Scripture. Indeed, for the Christian faith, nothing makes lasting sense if these chapters are undermined. Here the foundation of nearly every major Christian theme can be found. This explains in part why the early Church writers dealt so much with these chapters, reminding us in the process that the history of theological development is essentially the history of exegesis.

From the early days of the Church, appeals to patristic exegesis have always played a key role in theological debate and helped to clarify the parameters of orthodoxy. The controversies over Christological, Trinitarian, and canonizing matters were intense, and sometimes took centuries to resolve. But what God-fearing Christian today is not profoundly grateful for those like Athanasius in the early community of faith, who risked even their lives to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3; NKJV).

Fast-forward to our day, where the controversy over the age of the earth continues. There has been a renewal of interests in the Church fathers, and how they handled matters such as the length of the creation days, the age of the earth, and the Genesis Flood. Since their voice on theological matters has always been coveted, it would be expected that, along with a cautious use of their wisdom, there is also a tendency with some to misread the patristic literature. The teachings of the fathers can be just as surely taken out of context, eisegeted, or muffled altogether, as the Scriptures can be.

It is not insignificant that notable authors have recruited some fathers as accepting the idea of deep time. Scholars like William G.T. Shedd believe some in the patristic era taught the day-age theory. Henri Blocher claims Augustine held to a framework type view. Arthur Custance finds a champion of the gap theory in Origen. Such diversity of opinion can be highly confusing to the layperson, and leads us to ask four important questions. First, which specific ancient treatises were these modern scholars using to class the ancients into such post-Darwinian sounding categories? Second, were there any treatises or resources these modern writers overlooked? Third, if there were overlooked resources, was this innocent oversight due to perhaps consulting only secondary sources? And fourth, if these men were presented with sufficient patrological counter-evidence, would they acknowledge this in subsequent writings? This chapter aims to counter some of the misreadings of the fathers, and provide clarity by analyzing the original sources to see if their writings aid and abet modern deep-time theories.

Contemporary Misreadings of the Fathers
Proponents of the day-age view and framework hypothesis claim six-day creationism is of fairly recent vintage, and a reactionary movement against uniformitarian or proto-Darwinian ideas. They propose that prominent early Church exegetes pursued theological meaning as of the highest priority (rather than historical meaning), and would not identify with modern young-earth theses.

While some may wonder whether their views have any relevance in the current debate, others, such as Hugh Ross, know the value that a theological position has if it can claim the imprimatur of the Church fathers.

Thus, like Shedd, Blocher, and Custance, Ross makes an attempt to buttress his old-earth position with some patristic clout. And four common lines of reasoning seem to link all their proposals. First, these modern old-earth advocates think that at the time when the Church was clarifying and fortifying its creeds, the age of the earth was less vital to the fundamentals of Christianity. Second, it is implied (if not stated), if these God-fearing men from the past (the fathers) felt comfortable with a wide spectrum of exegetical method and hermeneutical conclusions on the age of the cosmos, we should emulate them. Third, they say, we have sufficient patristic confirmation that young-earth creationism was not the position of the Early Church, and definitely not compulsory to classic orthodoxy. And, fourth, when modern scholars invoke Augustine and others as comfortable with deep time, the pivotal premise seems to be that belief in millions of years is not a fallback concession brought on by uniformitarianism, but has always been a position compatible with orthodoxy.

Christians should be aware of the great cloud of witnesses in Church history, and a judicious use of the fathers can be both relevant and edifying. And even though the Christian’s highest and final authority should always be Scripture, the more knowledge of Church history one has, the better. In being tutored by the fathers, we will be better armed to discern and respond to the novel theological heterodoxies in their day and ours.

Read the Table of Contents and an excerpt from Chapter One.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Repost: Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

I'm going to be gone this week and didn't manage to get this week's book read and its review written before I left. So I'm posting my review of a book I reviewed some time ago that I highly recommend. Enjoy!

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
by Nancy Guthrie

Hardback: 166 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Publishers
First Released: 2009

Source: copy from the publisher for a blog tour

Description from Book Cover:
In this paradigm-shifting book, Nancy Guthrie gently invites readers to lean in along with her to hear Jesus speak understanding and insight into the lingering questions we all have about the hurts of life: What was God’s involvement in this, and why did he let it happen? Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for a miracle? Can I expect God to protect me? Does God even care?

According to Nancy, these questions can either take us far from God or cause us to press into him more deeply as we search for and find the answers in His Word. It is as we hear Jesus speak into our confusion that we come to clarity about the promises of the gospel we may have misapplied and the purposes of God we may have misunderstood.

In Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, Nancy shares the answers she has found as she has heard Jesus speaking promises ("My grace is all you need"), imperatives ("Be healed!"), and prayers ("Thy will be done") into the sorrow in her life.

Book Review:
Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow is a Christian nonfiction book that answers the questions asked by Christians who have experienced deep sorrow and wonder why God allowed it. This book deepens the reader's understanding of the Bible and our view of God. It doesn't give easy, pat answers but digs deeper in search of truth and never denies your pain. This book focuses on Bible scripture and on Christ, and the insights she points out will bring comfort and healing to your deep sorrows.

This book was written by someone who knows deep sorrow (through the death of two children), but the book is for anyone who has ever struggled with disappointment, heart-break, or hurt of any sort. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone.

Excepts from the Introduction:
It is found in John 6, where John records that many of Jesus’ followers had turned away and deserted him because some of his teachings were so hard for them to swallow. They were offended by what Jesus said, so they simply walked away from him. He didn’t meet their immediate expectations, and he seemed to ask of them more than they wanted to give. They were far more interested in what they could get from Jesus than in getting more of Jesus. And when Jesus made it clear that what he wanted to give them was more of himself, they simply weren’t interested any longer. At that point, as the throngs that had been following him began to slip away, Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

I try to imagine the drama and emotion of that moment as Jesus said out loud what they were probably all thinking to themselves and as he called those closest to him to a decision. Simon Peter spoke up for the group, saying to Jesus, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (verse 68).

As my pastor read the Scripture, I could relate to those in the story who found some of Jesus’ words difficult to understand and accept, and simply walked away. Perhaps you can too, as you have struggled to reconcile your understanding of what you’ve read about in the Bible, and your expectations of how God cares for those he loves, with your own difficult reality.


Jesus said that we should listen closely to his words. “Pay close attention to what you hear,” he said. “The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Mark 4:24-25).

And so I have to ask you, Do you want to listen closely to Jesus so that he will give you more understanding? Will you open your heart and mind to hear him speak into your sorrow? The words written on the pages of your Bible are not just detached religious dialogue that fails to intersect with your difficult reality. They are God’s personal message to you.

Read the full introduction.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Messianic Torah Devotional by Kevin Geoffrey

book cover

Messianic Torah Devotional
by Kevin Geoffrey

ISBN-13: 0-9785504-4-7
Trade Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Perfect Word Publishing
Released: 2008

Source: Bought.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Presenting the five books of Moses from a distinctly Messianic Jewish perspective, the Messianic Torah Devotional will forever change the way you see your relationship with God. The Torah is far more than a set of stories about the Patriarchs and the minutiae of ancient Jewish laws--it is the God-breathed instruction given to the descendants of Israel to ensure their success as His unique, set-apart people. The topics of Torah--from the fundamental to the fiery--are sure to stir you toward a life of unparalleled holiness and commitment to the Master, Yeshua.

Using the framework of the Torah portions read in the traditional Jewish annual reading cycle, the Messianic Torah Devotional explores Israel's distinguishing covenant as a rich source of nourishment for the hungry disciple of Messiah.

My Review:
Messianic Torah Devotional is a devotional book authored by a Messianic Jew. It follows the Torah portions read in the traditional Jewish annual reading cycle (provided in the back of the book), so there are 54 devotionals covering the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It will last for a year if you read the several chapters (around 4 or 5 chapters) in the reading portion during the week and then read the devotional at the end of the week. However, you can read through it faster than that.

The devotional provides a commentary on the Scripture reading, which you read using your own Bible. It's intent is to encourage the reader to a greater trust and knowledge of God. Each devotional is three pages long and includes several quotes from the reading portion, but it's translated in super-literal way. This translation only obscures the text, in my opinion, but it's not really a problem since supposedly you've already read the same text using the translation of your choice. At the end of each devotional, there is a suggested prayer.

I thought that, overall, this devotional made some good points about the text--how we're supposed to respond to God versus how we often do and why. If you like devotionals but aren't highly familiar with the first five books of the Bible, this could be a great devotional to try.

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 pages 15-17
[Please note that some actual Hebrew words and letters are used in the devotional heading and Scripture quotes, but I haven't included them in my excerpt.]

Sarah's Life
B'reshiyt (Genesis) 23:1-25:18

"And [the servant] said, 'ADONAI, God of my master, Av'raham, cause [me] to meet--please--before me this day (and show grace to my master, Av'raham; behold, I am standing by the fountain of water, and daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. And may it be, [that] the young woman to whom I say, "Please, hold out your pitcher, that I [may] drink," and she says, "Drink, and I [will] water your camels also"), her You have decided for Your servant, for Yitz'chak; and by it I [will] know....'" B'reshiyt 24:12-14

We tend to play games with God, don't we? Sometimes, we treat Him like a magic eight-ball, shaking Him around until we get the answer we want. We think that by mixing our circumstances together with our prayers, the Lord will somehow give us a sign through it--something to hang our hopes on--because otherwise, we just can't seem to hear Him.

So, how do we account for the servant of Av'raham? Surely, he concocted this scenario to figure out how to choose Yitz'chak's wife...or did he? "He is sending His messenger before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there." (24:7)

There's a big difference between grasping for direction in random occurrences or self-fulfilling prophesies, and truly being directed by the Lord. He can and does guide us by giving us specific signs to follow. The question is, do we know ADONAI well enough to recognize His signs when we see them?

"And it came to pass, before he had finished speaking [to his heart], that Riv'kah...came out, with her pitcher on her shoulder...." B'reshiyt 24:15

Following a sign from God is certainly important, but how can we tell the difference between the guidance of the Lord and our own wishful thinking? In the case of Av'raham's servant, it was easy: even before he had finished entreating the Lord, his prayers were answered!

We can miss the signs and direction of the Lord for many reasons, but the most likely culprit is that we have already made up our minds about the way we think things should go. Perhaps we ought to give God a chance to show us His way first--just in case He has a better ideas.

When we ask God for direction in our life and it seems like our prayers aren't even being heard, let us remember how easy it was for the servant of Av'raham. Maybe the reason we have so much trouble discerning answers from the Lord is that we're praying with pre-laid plans in our head. Isn't it possible that the Creator of the universe just might have something else in mind?

"And the man bowed [down] and worshipped ADONAI, and said, 'Blessed is ADONAI, God of my master, Av'raham, who has not forsaken His loving-kindness and His faithfulness toward my master...." B'reshiyt 24:26-27b

When our prayers appear to go unanswered, we're often quick to complain. But what about the times when God answers clearly--how swift are we to bless Him with worship, thanksgiving and praise? Aren't we more likely to forget the Lord until the next time we want something from Him? To a God who provides for our every need, that's really not much of a blessing.

Answered prayer is one way that ADONAI shows "His loving-kindness and His faithfulness toward" us. It proves that He not only remembers us, but that He cares enough about our daily needs to be both the compass and destination on this journey we call Life.

So, when ADONAI responds to our requests, let us not forget to be faithful to Him in return. Surely, bowing down in worship and glorifying Him with praise isn't giving too much of a blessing to a God who answers prayer...


ADONAI, I bless Your Name--You are glorious and worthy of my worship. Teach me, Father, to run to You in prayer when I am in need, and to not forget You when You show Yourself faithful. Make me Your servant, ADONAI, that by signs I may know Yor ways--that I will not set my mind according to my own desires, but clearly see Your hand of loving-kindness. I speak to my heart right now, Father, "Show me Your ways, that I may follow You all of my days...."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Commands of Christ, Series 2

book cover

Commands of Christ:
The Curriculum of the Great Commission, Series 2

ISBN-13: 0-916888-24-X
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Institute in Basic Life Principles
Released: 2002

Link to Publisher's Website

Source: Bible study group at a church I attend.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
The Commands of Christ series is a set of seven study books focusing on 49 general commands that Jesus gave.

The books may be used in a group setting or as a personal study. Each lesson includes an in-depth commentary, study questions, a character quality and songs that amplify the command, questions and commitments for personal application, and a journal page for recording your own insights and progress as you incorporate Christ’s commands into your life.

My Review:
I was involved in a small group Bible study which used this book. We had a lot of good, in-depth discussions based on the study's commentary and in coming up with specific examples of how one could put these commands of Christ into real life practice. I'd highly recommend this study to other small groups. You can also do it as a personal study.

I felt this study did a good job in exploring what the whole Bible (both Old and New Testaments) had to say on the subject. For example, in the first lesson on "Keeping Your Word," they start with the question "Why did God deliver Abraham and Sarah in spite of the lie that they told Pharaoh and Abimelech and yet destroy Ananias and Sapphira for the lie that they told Peter?" Then the study went on to explore the similarities and differences in the situations and answer why.

The verses under discussion and related verses were fully quoted in the book so you don't have to look anything up. The commentary included relevant cultural background information and short word studies to further clarify our understanding of the verses. At the end of each study, there was a page of personal application questions and another page with suggested take-away resolutions and a place for personal notes.

The seven commands covered in the seven lessons of this book were Keep Your Word (Matthew 5:33-37); Go the Second Mile (Matthew 5:38-42); Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:43-45); Be Perfect (Matthew 5:46-48); Give, Pray, Fast Secretly (Matthew 6:1-18); Lay Up Treasures (Matthew 6:19-21); and Seek God's Kingdom (Matthew 6:24-33).

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.

Keep Your Word
let your yes be yes, and your no be no

"Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

Study Question: Why did God deliver Abraham and Sarah in spite of the lie that they told Pharaoh and Abimelech and yet destroy Ananias and Sapphira for the lie that they told Peter?

Why is keeping your word so important?
Most people do not begin to comprehend the power or the consequences of simple little words. Scripture states that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).

Because words are so important, God makes every person accountable for every word. "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by they words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).

The command of Jesus to reject any hint of lying or deception is vital for every disciple, because the very nature of God is truth, and those who represent Him must live and speak truth. "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight" (Proverbs 12:22).

In Scripture, two accounts of lying reveal important insights into the nature and consequences of not being completely truthful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Galatians by Thomas R. Schreiner

book cover

(Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
by Thomas R. Schreiner

ISBN-13: 9780310243724
Hardback: 432 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: December 14, 2010

Source: Won from giveaway on Koinonia Blog.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
Designed for the pastor and Bible teacher, this series brings together commentary features rarely gathered together in one volume. Written by notable evangelical scholars, each volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series treats the literary context and structure of the passage in the original Greek. The series consistently provides the main point, an exegetical outline, verse-by-verse commentary, and theology in application in each section of every commentary.

Critical scholarship informs each step but does not dominate the commentary, allowing readers to concentrate on the biblical author’s message as it unfolds. While primarily designed for those with a basic knowledge of biblical Greek, all who strive to understand and teach the New Testament will find these books beneficial.

In this volume, Thomas R. Schreiner offers pastors, students, and teachers a focused resource for reading Galatians. Through the use of graphic representations of translations, succinct summaries of main ideas, exegetical outlines and other features, Schreiner presents Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians with precision and accuracy. Because of this series’ focus on the textual structure of the scriptures, readers will better understand the literary elements of Galatians, comprehend the author’s revolutionary goals, and ultimately discover their vital claims upon the church today.

My Review:
This commentary on Galatians is a thick but easy read. You don't need to know biblical Greek to follow this commentary since it focused mainly on how the author and various other people understood the verse and the problems with the various other understandings. Since the author argued (in the verse-by-verse section) for how I've always understood the verses, I really didn't learn that much new beyond how other people have viewed the verses. If you're interested in "critical scholarship" or are searching for answers to what's wrong with another person's interpretation that sounds wrong to you, then this is the book to read.

The commentary had an extensive introduction which included: who the author was, who the letter was sent to (with "for" and "against" arguments for the two views), when Galatians was written, the main views about the situation that Paul was writing about (as can be gleaned from his letter), and the overall structure of the letter.

Each chapter then covered a related group of verses. The author looked at the context of these verses, how they fit in the overall theme of the letter, and the main idea of the verses. These sections included a summary of what had been said in the previous chapters so you can jump to whatever verses interest you. Next, he laid out the Bible verses in a diagram showing the flow of thought in the passage (with tags like: setting, problem, solution, fulfillment).

After that, he examined the text. Each verse or part of the verse was given in English and then in the original Greek. The author then commented about his and other interpretations of the verses and the problems with the other interpretations. He also included some about notable tenses or word meanings and cultural or historical background information. He gave excellent footnoting to tell where the information came from or to comment more in-depth about something in the text. At the end of each chapter, there were a couple pages discussing how to apply the message in these verses to modern life.

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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dismantling the Big Bang by Alex Williams & Dr. John Hartnett

book cover

Dismantling the Big Bang
by Alex Williams &
Dr. John Hartnett

ISBN-13: 9780890514375
Trade Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 2005, 2006

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
The idea that all matter, energy, space, and time once exploded from a point of extreme density has captured the imagination of scientists and laypersons for decades. The big bang has provided a central teaching for the eons of time of "cosmic evolution," undermining the history and cosmology of the Bible.

Yet it is a theory that fails, violating even the physical laws on which it is purportedly based.

In this easy-to-read format, authors Alex Williams and John Hartnett examine this naturalistic explanation for the universe (what it teaches and where it fails) and compare it to the biblical model, which they believe provides a far better explanation of our origins. This fully indexed, illustrated analysis is an invaluable help in understanding and countering the arguments for the big bang theory.

My Review:
Dismantling the Big Bang is an excellent book about the big bang, its problems, and other cosmological origins models (including young-age ones). Of the books I've read on this topic, these authors have done the best job at clearly explaining what can be complicated ideas. The book was very readable (written in a conversational tone) and easy to follow. It included black and white photographs and illustrations. I'd highly recommend it for high school students and adults.

Chapter 1 gave a historical overview of cosmological ideas throughout recorded history. Chapter 2 explained the basic assumptions that everyone has to make in the study of origins. Chapter 3 explained what chance and physics can account for in cosmology. Chapter 4 explained the Big Bang model (including the variations that are commonly held), what it can't and doesn't explain, and other problems. Chapter 5 explained how people try to measure age when they don't actually know the starting date and the assumptions made in these methods. It also covered some of the different young-age creationist origin models for the universe and how they deal with the "distant starlight" problem.

Chapter 6 covered what the Bible says about the origin of and in general about the universe and how that compares to what we obverse in the universe today. It briefly covered the theological and linguistic problems with several of the compromise positions (which say God created, but the universe is billions of years old). Chapter 7 compared the Big Bang model to the biblical model to see which best fit the evidence. There's also a comparison chart in Appendix C. Chapter 8 took a brief look at the current trends in cosmology to see where future study will probably be concentrated.

The appendixes included a brief look at other naturalistic models for the origin of the universe, an explanation of the theological consequences of compromise, a chart comparing the Big Bang model to the biblical explanation for the origin of the universe, and an open letter by (naturalistic) cosmologists stating that the Big Bang model has fatal flaws and that funding and scientific magazine space should also be given to alternative models.

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 the table of contents and an excerpt from chapter one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Story of Christianity by Justo L. Gonzalez

book cover

The Story of Christianity:
The Early Church to the Present Day
by Justo L. Gonzalez

ISBN: 1-56563-522-1
Hardback: 880 pages
Publisher: Prince Press
Released: 1999

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Goodreads:
Now available in one affordable hardcover, Gonzalez's 2- volume work continues to set the standard in seminary classrooms worldwide. This highly acclaimed text provides a vivid introduction to Christian history, from the apostolic church to the present day. Gonzalez skillfully weaves in relevant details from the lives of prominent figures, tracing out core theological developments as reflected in the lives of leading thinkers within various church traditions. Especially careful attention is given to Christian expansion into Central and South America during the early modern period.

My Review:
The Story of Christianity covers the history of Christianity from the Apostles to John Wycliffe in Vol. 1 and from the Protestant Reformation to the mid-1900's in Vol. 2 of this two-volumes-in-one book. The author traced the controversies in Christian thought and developments in Christian action in roughly chronological order. (He'd talk about developments in one area or county and then sometimes jump back in time a bit to cover a parallel development in another country.) He explained how the different social, political, and economic forces shaped Christian thought and action. He covered the people who most influenced Christianity though few were studied in-depth. He also filled in political events that connected major points in Christian history.

The book was very readable despite it's huge size. Though the author didn't bash Catholics, he did point out things that Catholics might not like to hear, like just how late certain Catholic doctrines were developed and how not all popes were exactly saintly people. The author also seemed to have a slight bias against any Christian group who held or holds any doctrine too fervently. Also, despite it's size, the book didn't cover any subject as in-depth as some people will like, but it's an excellent overview of the subject.

I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting an easy-to-read overview of the developments in Christian thought and action.

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 the Table of Contents and an excerpt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: Living in the Time of Jesus of Nazareth

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Living in the Time of Jesus of Nazareth
by Peter Connolly

Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Steimatzky
Released: 1988

Source: Inherited from my grandfather's library.

Book Description from Back Cover (slightly modified):
This book covers the political background from the reign of Herod the Great through the end of the uprising against Rome at Masada. In sidebars, it also covers everyday life, the religion, the geography of Israel, the military, and the buildings.

My Review:
Living in the Time of Jesus of Nazareth is a Bible background book covering 103 BC to 73 AD. It gave detailed information about the political situation during those years. It also gave very brief overviews of: various political terms; the religious groups (Sadducees, Scribes, Pharisees, Essenes, the Sanhedrin, the Messiah); taxes and coinage; trials and punishments; daily living (weaving and spinning; childhood, education, and games; cooking, baking, and food; betrothal, marriage, and divorce; clothing and jewelry; death and burial; craftsmen and agricultural work); and the Roman military, weapons, and siege techniques.

The author used British terms. He seemed skeptical about the historical accuracy of the New Testament and treated Jesus as just one of the Messiahs of the time. (He spent only one page on Jesus of Nazareth.) However, the illustrations and historical background were nicely done.

The photos, illustrations, and maps were full-color. The photos were of the land and ruins of Biblical sites. The illustrations were of daily living tools and activities and artist reconstructions of various buildings that existed at that time (houses; palaces in Masada, Jericho, Jerusalem; baths; synagogues; the Temple; tombs; Herodium; Antonia Fortress; and various buildings at Masada, at Qumran, and at Caesarea).

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 2, 2011

Book Review: Fashioned by Faith

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Fashioned by Faith
by Rachel Carter

ISBN-13: 9781400316922
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: May 3, 2011

Source: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Everyone knows that we live in a “skin-is-in” society, heavily driven by media and immodesty. So how does a young Christian woman reconcile a fashionable wardrobe with maintaining her integrity?

Written by international professional model Rachel Lee Carter, Fashioned by Faith offers a cutting-edge approach to the concept of beauty with a Biblical foundation that will attract moms and daughters alike. Readers will love hearing about Carter’s exciting story as she leads them on an engaging study that touches on a huge felt need for young women: real beauty has nothing to do with looks.

Offering three valuable perspectives—teen boys, a professional model, and God’s Word—Carter explains her standards of modesty in a way that will make readers acquire a specific understanding of the author’s wardrobe choices and the impact those choices can make on others. Readers will also learn to season their self-image with daily quiet time with God. A tour of Scripture will reveal the value of heart issues like modesty and why they’re important to God.

Never compromising her sense of style or her faith, every young lady can discover what it means to be Fashioned by Faith. Moms and girls will love this book!

My Review:
Fashioned by Faith is an excellent Christian living book about modesty and true beauty. At the back of the book, there's also a quick-to-do 45-day Bible study on the same topics.

At the beginning of each chapter, a teen boy gave his perspective on what girls wear (though the boys all said the same sort of things). The author then talked about what modesty is, the heart-issues behind wanting to get attention from boys, some useful guidelines for clothing that will help you not show too much while wearing and moving around in clothing, and a few style tips for using stylish clothing in a modest way. She also quoted Scripture and explained what God has told us about modesty, beauty, and our bodies.

This book was written in an easy-to-understand level for teens, but the author made some great points for adult women as well. I was expecting a little more about how to dress "in fashion," but it was mostly about how to wear "in fashion" clothing in modest ways (layering, etc.). Also, much of the book focused on the motives behind wearing immodest clothing, why Christian women should wear modest clothing out of consideration for others, eating disorders, and trusting God. She described various incidents in her life that illustrated her points. For example, God kept providing her with work even when her agents told her no one would hire her if she refused to model underwear, etc. So you also learn some about the modeling industry.

There were several pictures of the author from various photo shoots and from her "normal life." Personally, I thought some of the clothing she was wearing pushed the edge of modest. Ironically, in the only picture where she looks like she wouldn't blow away if the wind blew too hard, her agent was apparently pressuring her to lose some weight because she was "too heavy." Go figure.

I've read all of this modesty information before, but I think this was one of the better books I've read on the topic. I'd recommend this book to girls and women, especially those struggling with why modesty matters.

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 One
he [Seth, age 20] says...

I grew up with two older sisters. They've taught me a lot about women. One of the things I've learned is there is a quiet and beautiful dignity about a woman who dresses conservatively. Any man would be fortunate to have a wife like my sisters, but what makes them really special is that they have too much self-respect and confidence to wear clothes that reveal too much. I use the word confidence because I feel a girl who's covered in all the right places is a girl who lives with the freedom of not having to rely on attention for her sense for self-worth. A girl with confidence is much more attractive to me than a girl who feels she has to exploit her body to receive attention or, worse, love.

My sisters are not ashamed of their bodies, and they wear the most current and stylish clothes. Yet they understand great men appreciate modesty. It doesn't matter how many girlfriends a man has had in his past, when he decides to settle down, his ideal wife will be one who lives modestly. A man who says he doesn't care about modesty or how his girlfriend dresses is lying.

When I marry, I want to find a woman I alone can fully appreciate. I believe young women should learn to value a sense of mystery. The more a woman destroys the mystery for a man, the more he will only be interested in what's going on from the neck down. All men are guilty of it, including myself, unfortunately. When a girl can barely walk because of her tight-fitting or revealing clothes, a man will either pursue her solely out of lust or automatically dismiss her as someone he doesn't want to be with.

There's a saying that goes, "If you got it, flaunt it." This is a lie. Instead, it should say, "If you've got it, protect it." Great women like my mother and sisters took this idea and lived their lives by it. This is the type of woman I'm interested in getting to know, because modesty and confidence in a woman is a very powerful and attractive woman.

Read more using Google Preview.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: Unformed and Unfilled

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Unformed and Unfilled:
A Critique of the Gap Theory
by Weston Fields

ISBN: 089051-423-2
Trade Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 1976, 2005

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher's Website (modified):
Is there a "gap in time" between the first two verses in Genesis? Does this alleged gap really represent a vast amount of time? Weston Fields makes a detailed study of the gap theory, paying particular attention to the original Hebrew language of Genesis. His explanations will help readers who struggle with the question of the time taken during the creation week. Was it really six days? Can Christians find a workable solution to the debate about creation and time? This book is a professional, scholarly work that can be easily understood by laymen.

About the Author:
Weston W. Fields, Ph.D., is a scholar of the Hebrew language. He divides his time between Alaska and Israel where he does research work related to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My Review:
Unformed and Unfilled is a critique of the gap theory (the idea that there's a large gap in time--usually between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2--between God's original creation of the universe and a re-making of the earth after a world-wide flood upon the earth done in judgment of Satan's rebellion). The author was very thorough in his explanations of why the gap theory (in its many variations) isn't consistent with the Biblical account, especially when studying the original Hebrew words and grammar. His writing was more formal in tone and required anyone not familiar with Hebrew grammar to learn a lot about it from this book. However, it was written clearly so that his arguments were easy enough to follow.

The author covered the arguments given for the gap theory in great detail so that highly-read believers in the gap theory will understand his points. However, someone who doesn't know that much about the arguments for the gap theory could get overwhelmed by all the information and miss the really critical points. Still, I'd recommend this book to those who hold the gap theory or day-age theory (though books with more scientific evidence for recent creation might be more effective) or those who want to know the Scripture-based arguments for why those ideas don't work.

The author covered what the whole Bible has to say about creation and its timing, ancient Jewish interpretations of Genesis 1:1-1:2, and early Christian interpretations and post-"long-age-geology" Christian interpretations of Genesis 1:1-1:2. He gave a detailed explanation of the grammar and linguistics of Genesis 1:1-1:3 (mainly, bara/"create" and asa/"make"; what type of sentence is Genesis 1:2; the waw type; "was" versus "had become" or "became"; and tohu/"without form/shapeless" and bohu/"void/empty"). He also covered the lesser arguments of 'Genesis 1:2 had darkness, but God is light,' "framed" in Hebrew 11:3a, pre-Adamic men, and Lucifer's flood.

Finally, he covered other long-age creation theories: the dependent clause interpretation of Genesis 1:1 ("When God began to create...") and the Day-Age theory. He described three types of apologetics along with why he believes nothing is really gained by compromising Scripture to make it appeal to people. He concluded with a very brief explanation of (Noah's) flood geology as an explanation for fossils, etc., and two scientific evidences for recent creation (the Earth's magnetic field and radiocarbon dating).

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: View the table of contents and read from chapter one.