Category Archives: Books

Book reviews 4/21/14

Time again to review this stack of books I’ve read over the past several months so I can finally clear them off my desk to make room for more. :)

jesus_every_pageJesus on Every Page (David P. Murray)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Given my long-term study here of Jesus in the Old Testament, I couldn’t resist picking up this book when I came across it.  I didn’t really catch much new that I hadn’t already in other studies, but I definitely think it would be a great book for anyone who wants a relatively condensed primer on how to see Jesus Christ throughout the entire Old Testament.  Just for a taste, here are the several categories he goes through in chapters throughout the book, titled “Discovering Jesus in…”

  • … the Creation
  • … the Old Testament Characters
  • … His Old Testament Appearances
  • … the Old Testament Law
  • … Old Testament History
  • … the Old Testament Prophets
  • … the Old Testament Types
  • … the Old Testament Covenants
  • … the Old Testament Proverbs
  • … the Old Testament Poems

Of course, checking that book out might also be a nice way to skip to the punchline in some areas and skip all my deep-dive blog posts.  Your call. :)

delighting_trinityDelighting in the Trinity (Michael Reeves)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Here is another outstanding, relatively short book that is not only a primer on the Trinity, but really covers a great deal of material in an easier to read manner than other books on the nature of the one true God.  Reeves does justice to the study of the nature of God, turning what some see as a dry doctrinal subject into something we can simply dwell on and delight in.  I found some of the best parts to be the many sidetracks where he let us hear statements from several early church fathers as well as later reformers.  Another great, quick read you should check out.

christ_covenantsThe Christ of the Covenants (O. Palmer Robertson)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Robertson does a great job working his way through the various covenants throughout Scripture, explaining the distinctiveness of each while always pointing out the unity and continuity of God’s work throughout history.  He additionally throws in a nice chapter discussing dispensationalism and some of the issues with the theological system.  The reason I end up rating this four stars instead of five is that it felt a bit too meaty for much of the book on the earlier covenants, and then ended way too quickly with little material on the new covenant inaugurated with Jesus Christ.

killing_calvinismKilling Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside (Greg Dutcher)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

At barely over 100 pages, this book is a quick read, but it felt like it glossed too much through the issues with Calvinism as it has resurged with the “young, restless, reformed” in recent past.  Much feels filled with caricatures of Calvinists, but it does have enough good points to make it worth the read.  A couple of the chapters I appreciated most were the ways we potentially kill Calvinism “By Loving God’s Sovereignty More Than God Himself” and “By Learning Only from Other Calvinists.”  Oh, and “By Being an Arrogant Know-It-All” had some good points, but I think hit too much on the caricature picture of Calvinists.  If you wanted to learn about various viewpoints on Calvinism, you would do much better with the next two books in my list.

for_calvinismagainst_calvinismFor Calvinism (Michael S. Horton)

Against Calvinism (Roger E. Olson)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

These two books discuss Calvinism in a thorough, yet nicely condensed manner.  They also do well to note the many differences between the modern caricature representations of both Calvinism and Arminianism vs. more historical and reasonable representations of the two sides of the theological spectrum.  Both authors seem to be gracious to the other sides of the argument, though I have to admit I found it quite tiring that Olson continually described the God of Calvinism a “moral monster.”  While I may not agree with all of Calvinist theology, the frequency of that statement pretty much defeated much of his attempts to carefully steer around the caricatures.  Regardless, if you are curious at all about the debate between the two theological systems, or often find yourself in the middle of the debate, definitely check them both out.

zions_sakeFor Zion’s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby (Paul Richard Wilkinson)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I’ve linked to a video of Wilkinson’s in a previous post on “Christian Palestinianism,” which I found to be very well done.  That video led me to check out this book, and due to it’s scholarly format (i.e., in-depth and meaty), it sat around quite a while.  I’m glad I finally braved through it, because it was very meaty on the history of the topic.  I had heard of Darby through previous studies of dispensationalism, but this book had far more on his life and in-depth discussions on other theologians throughout history, including their views of God’s plan for Israel as revealed in Scripture.  I would recommend checking out the video first, and then jump at the book only if that piques your curiosity for more information.

jacob_prodigalJacob and the Prodigal (Kenneth E. Bailey)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I really enjoyed this book.  Bailey has a unique background in that he has spent much of his life living, teaching and travelling in the Middle East.  In his book, he works through Jesus’ parables in Luke 15, including the parable of the prodigal son.  Now, I thought I had heard it all when it comes to that parable, but Bailey’s perspective was definitely a unique one, especially when viewed alongside his discussion of the other parables in the chapter.  It was a joy to read the cultural background of the area as applied to Jesus’ parables.  This is another relatively short book and is a very easy and worthwhile read.

jesus_mideast_eyespaul_mideast_eyespoet_peasantJesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Paul Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Poet & Peasant, and Through Peasant Eyes (Kenneth E. Bailey)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I’m going to group these three books together as they are very similar.  In these books, Bailey continues to bring his unique perspective to bear on far more Scripture than the parables of Luke 15.  In the “Jesus” book, he covers areas such as Jesus’ birth, the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer.  In the “Paul” book, he works his way through the entirety of 1 Corinthians.  In the third “two books in one,” Bailey covers much of the same ground as the prodigal book I reviewed above, though in more depth.  I would recommend you first read the prodigal book, and if you enjoy his style, move on to the Jesus book.  Only if you’re aching for more, or really want a decent 1 Corinthians commentary, go with the Paul book next.  Finally, I would actually skip the 2-in-1 book since it is much older material than his updated and nicely concise prodigal book.

dreams_visionsDreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? (Tom Doyle)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

We received this book from one of the missionary families we support, and I will admit I was a bit skeptical what I would find in here before reading.  Normally, I throw out most dream/vision material as possibly demonic in nature rather than from God, especially when you dig just a little under the surface and find things that conflict with God’s Word.  However, in this book, I was nicely surprised that the author provided a good amount of warning against that very thing when dealing with dream/visions.  Along with that, he documented many of those being seen by Muslims who are turning to Christ throughout the Middle East, making it clear that whether or not these are true ones from Jesus Christ, these people are at least turning dramatically to Him… which is the real importance of the events occurring there with increasing frequency.  I did find it interesting that some of these I had actually heard of before through Joel Rosenberg as well as a video from Iran Alive Ministries.

 

gleanings_genesisgleanings_exodusGleanings in Genesis, Gleanings in Exodus (Arthur W. Pink)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Given my Jesus in the Old Testament study, Pink’s “Gleanings” resources have been priceless.  He has a great wealth of material within these commentaries focused on seeing Jesus Christ as the central figure of the entirety of Scripture.  While I don’t agree with all of his types of Jesus Christ found throughout Genesis and Exodus, I certainly would not have noticed as many in my personal studies that I do agree with.  I’m mentioning these now since I finally completed them as we’re already starting study of the book of Numbers this next weekend.  Perhaps one of these days I will mention all the other various books, including whole-Bible commentaries such as that of Matthew Henry, that are my go-to resources for Jesus in the Old Testament study since it will be years before I’m able to finish up.  We’ll see.  :)

feasts_lordThe Feasts of the Lord (Kevin Howard)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Speaking of invaluable resources in my studies, Howard’s book was quite helpful in providing material beyond what I had gleaned via my own studies of the feasts laid out in Leviticus 23.  If you’ve never studied the Jewish feasts closely from the perspective of how Jesus Christ fulfills the spring feasts and how He will one day fulfill the fall feasts, you really owe it to yourself to dig further.  This would be a fantastic place to start, especially given it will probably be another year or so before I get to blogging that particular study!  :)

christ_passovermessianic_passoverpassover_haggadahChrist in the Passover (Rose Publishing)

Messianic Passover Haggadah (Barry Rubin)

Katz Passover Haggadah: The Art of Faith and Redemption (Baruch Chait)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

As part of our study through the feasts of Leviticus this winter and spring, our Bible study group decided I should perform a major deep-dive into Passover, especially given the approaching Easter season.  I was truly blessed by the study, and these are again three resources that proved priceless (in fact, the first two were quite cheap price-wise).  The first turned out to be a pamphlet on seeing Jesus Christ in the Passover tradition as well as what is found in actual Scripture.  It is small, but very worthwhile as an inexpensive primer on the subject.  The second was a small booklet, but was a great resource to guide one through a Messianic version of the Passover celebration (“Messianic” meaning taking the Jewish tradition and seeing how Jesus Christ shows up through and through).  The third was a resource to guide one through the modern traditional Jewish celebration, and yet one can still see glimpses of Jesus throughout.  The artwork of the Exodus story throughout was also very neat.  Let me know if you’re ever interested, and I will loan these out any time so you can explore the Passover celebration in-depth yourself… again, without having to wait another year for me to get around to blogging my research notes.  :)

tabernaclerose_guide_tabernacleThe Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah (Levy)

Rose Guide to the Tabernacle (Rose Publishing)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Finally we come to two resources that were greatly helpful in my studies of the Tabernacle during the Exodus study of Jesus in the Old Testament.  These proved valuable in covering all the ways Jesus Christ is the true Tabernacle and how that tent of meeting in the wilderness looked forward to Him.  My friend, Bruce Shauger, provided me with a presentation including much material that was also invaluable as well, though I can’t really send you to a Goodreads.com link for his material.  :)

Well, thanks for slogging through another set of book reviews with me.  I hope you find something here you might be interested in.  Most of these I will be keeping around, so let me know if you want to borrow any!  Until next time.

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Book reviews 11/24/13

It’s high time I threw together some book reviews today so I can clean them off my desk!

cost_discipleshipThe Cost of Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This book, written by anti-Nazi German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer just before WWII, sets out to evaluate the cost Jesus talks about in Luke 14:

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

Luke 14:27-28 (ESV)

It was a very thought-provoking read, especially coming from someone living in the proverbial lion’s den, later even taking part in a plot to assassinate Hitler for what he was doing.  The only reason I don’t rate this five stars is due to the heavy focus on works against (at the same time) finding rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

 

intolerance_toleranceThe Intolerance of Tolerance (D. A. Carson)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

D. A. Carson has become both one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite theologians over the past several years.  In fact, if you ever get the chance, check out his great God Who is There video series (we have a copy if you want to borrow it any time).  This particular book lays out a very convincing argument that today’s cult of tolerance, where we all have to be "tolerant" of each other by accepting and even at times embracing all our different beliefs without any judgment, is in fact intolerant itself.  In other words, those saying Christian beliefs are intolerant (due to the exclusivity of the claims of Jesus Christ) and therefore should not be tolerated in public forums, are simply being intolerant themselves.  Of course, my attempt at summarizing this book do not do it justice, so check it out yourself.

 

temple_church_missionThe Temple and the Church’s Mission (G. K. Beale)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Honestly, I don’t recall exactly why I put this book on my wish list.  I also don’t remember all the reasons I did not appreciate this book, as I have apparently blocked much of it from memory.  I can only recall vague, frequent thoughts of, "yeh, I’m really not buying what this guy is selling."  I would provide you some examples, but it would require me to scour the book again for several of them, and I just don’t think it’s worth the time.  Perhaps I will jot down examples as I read future books, since I tend to wait too many months between reviews!

 

learning_theology_fathersLearning Theology with the Church Fathers (Christopher A. Hall)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Over the past several years, I have been spending some time here and there reading through many of the early church fathers writings, but there are so many it is often difficult to know what and who to read from on any given topic.  So, I took a shot with this book to see what kind of summary it provided.  It turned out to be a very nice summary, hand-picking several topics of Christian theology and hand-picking some writings from a couple church fathers on each of those topics.  This, of course, results in a very non-exhaustive book, yet provides a nice branching point for jumping into their original writings if interested in the topics presented in the book.  The reason I give the book four stars instead of five is that it was simply too short.  I would have much preferred additional topics as well as pointing off to additional writings for each of the topics rather than limiting to just a few of the most prominent ones.  Anyway, if you have never been interested in the writings of the early church fathers, perhaps a brief read through this introduction would spark some interest.

 

aquinasAquinas: A Beginner’s Guide (Edward Feser)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A couple years ago, I got a hold of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and Summa contra Gentiles in a package of Logos Bible Software resources and quickly set out to read through them.  Well, let’s just say attacking the hundreds of pages making up the first epic work before getting a short course in what I was about to read led quickly to failure.  This book was an outstanding introduction to Aquinas’ writings and how he lays out his arguments.  I now feel much better prepared for round two of taking on his life’s work.  Maybe in a couple years, I’ll let you know how that went. :)

 

whyWhy?: Answers to Weather the Storms of Life (Vernon Brewer)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Vernon Brewer is the founder and president of one of my favorite Christian charities, World Help.  I happened to stumble across this organization only a couple years ago when watching an online sermon from a church, and have been fairly impressed with them since then.  Anyway, Vernon provides a good discussion regarding the question of why God lets storms enter our lives.  He has been through several himself throughout life, especially his difficult struggle with cancer, and so he is not simply some theologian developing a thesis to answer the question, but is one with plenty first-hand experience.  Definitely one to check out if you find yourself asking the same question over and over again.

 

archaeology_bible_vol1Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: Volume 1 (Amihai Mazar)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

This is a fairly interesting book, providing an overview of archaeological discoveries in the land of the Bible dated theoretically between 10,000 BC and 586 BC (the time of the Jewish exile).  However, I’ve seen far more interesting material online or through archaeological magazines like Bible and Spade.  These keep me more up to date, and are much better founded in the Biblical text, as they come from organizations basing their study on the assumption that God’s Word is true.  This book did not represent that position, and was also filled with far too much detail on pottery.  Yes, that’s much of what they have to go on in terms of dating finds, but still does not seem to be compelling evidence in many cases for some of the conclusions made in archaeology.  Anyway, I would look elsewhere if you’re interested in the subject.

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Book reviews 5/12/13

Definitely been slacking on getting some book reviews out there.  The stack of completed books on my desk has become dangerous!  Let’s see if I can break my blog or your web browser with this post.

divine_comedyThe Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This one was quite a time commitment to make it though.  I went with John Ciardi’s translation, which seemed quite well done.  It contains tons of notes on what’s going on in the epic poem historically, theologically and what he sometimes translates Dante as he does.  As for the poem itself, it’s very interesting to see what Dante does with Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.  I actually found the first of the two more interesting, as Dante uses far more nebulous imagery all throughout Paradise, which makes it very difficult to understand what in the world (or what in the heaven?) is going on.  My favorite part of the entire poem happens to be when Dante reaches the depths of Hell, climbing down ginormous Satan’s legs towards Purgatory and all of a sudden gravity switches on him and he’s now climbing up… because he’s crossed the gravitational center of the earth.  This was written in the early 1300s… what’s that tell you about all that crap we were fed in school about people thinking the earth was flat? ;)  There’s a ton of other interesting tidbits throughout the poem, but it would take too long to go through here… perhaps you’ll have to check it out yourself.  Oh, one more thing… I listened to a several hour seminar on the poem before I launched into it, which turned out to not really be necessary due to the great amount of notes in Ciardi’s translation.  What did startle me was how many times the teachers were so in awe of the poem and how you should/could spend years studying it.  Too bad they were focusing on the wrong book.

 

peace_childeternity_heartsPeace Child & Eternity in Their Hearts (Don Richardson)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

T picked these books up when Don Richardson visited the church we attend.  He was a missionary to the Sawi people in Dutch New Guinea, and his amazing story of bringing the Gospel to these cannibalistic headhunters is the focus of the first book.  I won’t do this justice, but to summarize the story, this people thrived on treachery against one another, sometimes befriending each other for months just to kill the person for fame and glory for how amazingly you tricked that person.  When Don brought them the Gospel, they loved Judas Iscariot of all people due to his treachery betraying Jesus Christ.  Eventually Don found God planted the Gospel somewhere else in their culture in that the only way they could have peace is for a tribe to give up a "peace child" to another tribe to be raised by them.  When he witnessed them do this, he found they completely turned around when he pointed out to the Sawi that God Himself provided the ultimate, eternal peace child to the world in Jesus Christ.  Like I said, I didn’t do the events justice, so check out the book, or you might even be able to get it straight from Don if the sermon is still available online.  As for the second book, Don describes several other cultures showing that God placed the Gospel message into their history and cultural practices from eternity.  Don’s sermon touches on this material as well.  Definitely plenty of additional food for thought.

 

willing_believeWilling to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will (R. C. Sproul)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

For a relatively short book, R. C. works through much of the major history of the theological debate over free will and God’s sovereignty.  He touches on Pelagius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin and Arminius, Edwards and Finney and Chafer… various important theologians in the debates throughout history.  With such a short book, Sproul does a fairly good job summarizing the main points in the debate attribute to each of them, and I suspect it’s a great starting point to view the landscape before digging deep into the actual writings of each of them, as well as studying the primary reference material… the Bible itself.  As for Sproul’s personal stance/leanings, you’re going to have to read it to find out. ;)

     

AAKS001533Because the Time is Near (John MacArthur)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

John MacArthur is one of our favorite authors, and this was a well-written in-depth study of Revelation with much more material than in his study Bible that T uses.  While I don’t agree with all of his interpretations of the book, I am mostly on his side.  It’s always refreshing to read someone taking a real stance on Biblical passages rather than the wishy-washy stuff you get with some other commentaries.  There’s definitely a place for both types of material, however, since the Biblical text is certainly not perfectly clear.  Given that, I do always appreciate that John finds no problem throwing his understanding out there to see.

 

indoctrinationIndoctrination: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America (Charles Laverdiere)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Honestly, I didn’t read completely through this book since it felt like a repeat of much of what is in the film it accompanies.  It provides detailed reference material and expands on the content of the film, but I feel like I got plenty from the film alone.  The basic premise of the book is that children in public schools are being indoctrinated in secular humanism, which is ultimately destructive to any possible Christian upbringing and to society itself.  That’s a pretty big fish to swallow, and Charles certainly makes a decent go at things.  Ultimately, I see both the film and book as a "teaser" of what’s going on out there and it likely will require more in depth reading of additional material to be convinced of anything.

 

reamdeReamde (Neal Stephenson)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Perhaps I’ve changed too much over the years, or maybe Neal has lost a bit of his touch with books, but I really didn’t enjoy this book much.  The first 100 pages or so were pretty neat, as it focused on the types of computer games I enjoy playing.  However, I just felt that around the time the story seemed to be complete, it quickly took some crazy turns into left field and it went on and on and on for far too many additional 100s of pages.  Hard to describe without far too many details, so I will instead simply suggest you check out his Snow Crash and Cyptonomicon books instead.

     

brave_new_worldBrave New World (Aldous Huxley)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

For such a short story, it sure is packed with some great stuff.  My neighbor Ken loaned this to me after we were discussing "old" sci-fi books one night, and I am glad to have finally read it.  While there are some boring parts throughout, and perhaps there might be many things simply seen as cliché today, it is filled with a genius vision of what was going to happen (and in many ways has happened) to society in whatever this modern age is we find ourselves in.  Check it out and see if it doesn’t send just a few shivers up and down your spine.

 

gilgamesh_immortalGilgamesh Immortal (Brian Godawa)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This is the third book in Godawa’s Chronicles of the Nephilim collection, and it focuses on pulling material from the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh alongside the Bible and other ancient documents.  I had been exposed to the Epic of Gilgamesh almost twenty years ago when I spent too much time digesting Zecharia Sitchin’s The Twelfth Planet paleobabble books, to use a phrase of one of my favorite blogs.  So, it was neat to see how Godawa brought that story into his, attempting to reconcile some of it with the little we find in the Bible of the time period.  While it’s just as conjectural as his previous books, it’s certainly an entertaining ride just like they were.  His fourth book, Abraham Allegiant is already out and waiting on my Kindle "shelf" to be read.

 

twelfth_imamThe Twelfth Imam (Joel C. Rosenberg)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This is the second time I’ve typed the word "twelvth" in this post (well, now that makes three times) and it still doesn’t look right to me.  Anyway, I’ve read most of Joel’s fictional takes on world events being part of the unfolding of end times events predicted in the Bible, and this is the first of his latest series of books.  One of the most interesting parts I found in the book was the beginning where he basically replays a portion of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, which I just so happened to "watch" a couple months later when the Academy Award winning Argo came out on DVD.  Funny timing.  Anyway, Joel always has an eery way of predicting the trend of events in the Middle East, and it will be interesting to see how these latest books turn out.

 

i_and_thoueclipse_godlegend_baal_shemtwo_types_faithI and Thou, Eclipse of God, The Legend of Baal-Shem & Two Types of Faith (Martin Buber)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

I should let T attempt to explain how I ended up reading a whole bunch of books by this Jewish theologian-philosopher.  Holy moly is Buber difficult to understand, but maybe that’s how all philosophers think and write.  I and Thou is apparently his most famous book, and I would suggest simply reading reviews of that book to be far more entertaining as they attempt to justify how each and every completely mistifyingly-incomprehensible statement (at least to me) is utter brilliance.  Here’s just a small taste:

Basic words do not state something that might exist outside them; by being spoken they establish a mode of existence.

Basic words are spoken with one’s being.

When one says You, the I of the word pair I-You is said, too.

When one says It, the I of the word pair I-It is said, too.

The basic word I-You can only be spoken with one’s whole being.

The basic word I-It can never be spoken with one’s whole being.

Perhaps I need to take a full course to understand that one, though I do have to admit after reading the book I at least have a very basic grasp of his premise.  It’s just crazy-weird language to have to muddle your way through.  I suppose that’s the way of the philosopher.  You can read reviews of the other books elsewhere if you’re really interested… they are all quite different from each other.  I just didn’t gain a whole lot from any of them worth passing on today. ;)

 

gospel_starswitness_starsThe Gospel in the Stars (Joseph A. Seiss)

The Witness of the Stars (E. W. Bullinger)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Now these were pretty cool.  I haven’t dug into the history of these two books, but they happened to both have been written in the late 19th century (1882 and 1895,respectively), which perhaps explains how similar they are.  It appears Bullinger basically adapted Seiss’ material with some of his own thoughts, and it sounded from Bullinger’s intro like Seiss’ book was based on another author’s material as well.  Anyway, the premise of both is that the zodiac and other related constellations are a witness to all of mankind of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the idea that its perhaps part of what is meant by Biblical passages like the following ones.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,

Genesis 1:14 (ESV)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1–6 (ESV)

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:19–21 (ESV)

Their arguments from the history of the constellations in terms of names and pictorial representations of the stars throughout cultures all over the earth can be quite compelling, especially when asking oneself a question like, "how in the world did anyone possibly come up with those stars making the shape of [insert name]?!?!"  You definitely don’t need to read both of these, and they are mostly equivalent.  The funny thing is, I think one of the guys was too far on the side of replacement theology (i.e., that the church has completely replaced Israel) and the other leans too far the other way.  Of course, you could keep it simple and just jump at Seiss’ much shorter version if that’s all you care about. ;)

 

are_we_togetherAre We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (R. C. Sproul)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sproul has a great way with getting straight to the heart of a matter, and this book is no exception.  Rather than debate on grounds of nebulous arguments between these two groups, as I see so often in other debates, he returns back to the crux why Protestants were originally protesting.  No summary of this already-short book will do it justice, so just borrow it from me sometime.  The basic conclusion is, no, we are not together.  The conclusions of the Council of Trent still stand (those that declared several "anathemas"), many of which well summarize the points on which we differ.  Paul himself warned the Galatians there will be different gospels of supreme importance.

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:8 (ESV)

While there are some anathemas from the council we might actually agree upon, there are plenty enough to indict Protestants’ view of the Gospel, and those are the focus of Sproul’s book.  He concludes those differences still exist, have not been reversed by the church, and that they are still of supreme importance.  For such a short book, I suggest you check out his arguments for yourself.

 

three_views_raptureThree Views on the Rapture: Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation (Craig A. Blaising, Stanley N. Gundry, Douglas J. Moo)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

There are several books in the "three views" series, and this is the only one I’ve read so far, which I found out about from Bruce.  I really enjoyed the format of the book, where each author takes a turn at presenting his view, followed by a brief engagement of his material by the other two authors, followed by one last bit of statements from that author in response.  Ultimately, I didn’t really find much to convince me to change how I viewed this difficult part of Scripture.  However, what I did find was much more appreciation for competing views, better realizing how difficult it is for one to be dogmatic on interpretation.  This is great stuff, and I will probably be checking out more books in the series.

 

steve_jobsSteve Jobs (Walter Isaacson)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Grant loaned me this book several months ago.  It’s huge.  So is Steve’s face on the front of the book, which I suppose fits the way I saw his ego through the years (and appears to be backed up by the biography).  Interesting man, but in the end, I found the most interesting material in the biography to be all the reliving of technological events in the history of computing centered around Steve’s life.  There were some great moments from childhood that I was able to relive throughout the book, and while it was hard to view the problematic moments of Steve’s life, reliving my personal memories made the read worth it.

 

complete_visual_bibleThe Complete Visual Bible (Stephen Miller)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

This is definitely not the way to study Scripture, but it was a fairly neat book for what it is… namely a summary of each book of the Bible along with pretty pictures related to those books to help you visualize some of the major events.  I found myself at times annoyed with how Miller approached some passages, but overall it was pretty well done, especially considering how short it is.  On a side note, I have The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook sitting here on my shelf ready to be read, which I expect to be far superior, though perhaps that will be mostly due to being a much larger book.

 

trinityThe Trinity (Edward H. Bickersteth)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This book was short, sweet and to the point.  Bickersteth does a good job racing through Scripture comparing passage after passage to clearly demonstrate the doctrine of the Trinity is through and through the Old and New Testaments when taken together.  The sheer number of passages where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share the same exact attributes can actually be pretty startling when viewed all in one place in a book like this.  If reading Scripture alone hasn’t convinced you yet, perhaps this gem will knock your socks off.

 

400_prophecies_Christ400 Prohpecies, Appearances or Foreshadowings of Christ in the Tanakh (Old Testament) (Paul Humber)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I can’t exactly remember how I came across this small book summarizing exactly what the title states.  It might have helped my "Jesus in the Old Testament" study a bit if I had picked this one up earlier, but it contains much of the same material in other commentaries and books I use as part of my research.  The best thing about it is that the length is something where you could maybe skip the depth of my blog posts and simply take the high-level good stuff in one sitting and call it all good.  Maybe that will drop my three blog readers down to two, though.  On second thought, forget I said anything. ;)

 

overcoming_sin_temptationOvercoming Sin & Temptation (John Owen)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Yes, it did just happen to finally end this post on a five-star book.  I picked this one up for free online, which you can download here as well.  This was actually pretty hard to get through due to John’s language and writing style.  It’s a weighty book, but so well worth travelling through if you can be patient and take your time.  It was edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor to be more readable, providing some helpful footnotes throughout.  The actual three books within this book are very interesting, and they do well to explore the nature of the spiritual battle waged daily within ourselves as believers in dealing with this sinful nature we continue to have with us this side of the grave.  Rather than attempt to summarize these, I will leave you with a single passage I found to be most striking.

"The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning
power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the
indwelling power of sin. So the apostle, “Mortify therefore your members
which are upon the earth” (Col. 3:5). To whom does he speak? Such as were
“risen with Christ” (v. 1); such as were “dead” with him (v. 3); such as whose
life Christ was and who should “appear with him in glory” (v. 4).
   Do you mortify;
   do you make it your daily work;
   be always at it while you live;
   cease not a day from this work;
   be killing sin or it will be killing you."

And with that, Owen launches into most of the rest of his material.  Tough read.  Tough love.  But, so is Romans, which should really be your first stop.  After that, let Owen take a shot, too.

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Book reviews 10/27/12

Time for some book reviews today while the family is outside working on leaf blowing, leaf burning and leaf diving.

voting_socialvoting_economic_foreignVoting as a Christian: The Social Issues (Wayne Grudem)

Voting as a Christian: The Economic and Foreign Policy Issues (Wayne Grudem)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

These two books were recommended to me by Bruce last week after he noticed them for a steal of a price on Amazon.com for their Kindle versions (only $2.99 each!).  I jumped at the price and quickly read through them, not really to prepare for the election due to my choice already being made, but to get Grudem’s take on things.  These are abridged versions of a much longer treatise on the subject, so would be great reads before the election for any of you out there who still struggle understanding what God has said regarding various issues being debated politically today.  He does a great job summarizing issues in such short books, and provides plenty of references to branch off to as he goes.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can simply download Amazon’s Kindle app for your computer and read them there (which is what I did).  Check them out.  I’ll leave you with one specific item from the books… Grudem’s engagement with Jim Wallis’ flawed "consistent ethic of life" argument is well worth the read.  As for me and my household, it all comes down to a single issue right now: abortion.  The rest really pale by comparison. 

 

real_christianityA Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity (William Wilberforce)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

In my quest to read a few "classics" here and there between other books, I picked up this Amazon.com Kindle version for free several weeks ago after listening to a few John Piper sermons on Romans where he referenced it.  Wow, was he right about the book… deep, weighty and hard to get through.  It sure was handy that the Kindle app has an integrated dictionary!  William argues quite well the many distinguishing characteristics of what true Christians should behave like and how the bulk of "nominal" Christians act in the world.  As with most books from previous generations, it’s always surprising how little things have changed from the past, and yet scary how much their slippery slope arguments reflect exactly how society is today.  This one was no exception to that rule.  Rather than babble more about the book, I’ll leave you with a lengthy excerpt.  Hard to miss who his argument from 1797 was looking forward to.

       Such being the circumstances of the pastors of the church, let the community in general be supposed to have been for some time in a rapidly improving state of commercial prosperity; let it also be supposed to have been making no unequal progress in all those arts, and sciences, and literary productions, which have ever been the growth of a polished age, and are the sure marks of a highly finished condition of society. It is not difficult to anticipate the effects likely to be produced on vital Religion, both in the clergy and the laity, by such a state of external prosperity as has been assigned to them respectively. And these effects would be infallibly furthered, where the country in question should enjoy a free constitution of government. We formerly had occasion to quote the remark of an accurate observer of the stage of human life, that a much looser system of morals commonly prevails in the higher, than in the middling and lower orders of society. Now, in every country, of which the middling classes are daily growing in wealth and consequence, by the success of their commercial speculations; and, most of all, in a country having such a constitution as our own, where the acquisition of riches is the possession also of rank and power; with the comforts and refinements, the vices also of the higher orders are continually descending, and a mischievous uniformity of sentiments, and manners, and morals, gradually diffuses itself throughout the whole community. The multiplication of great cities also, and above all, the habit, ever increasing with the increasing wealth of the country, of frequenting a splendid and luxurious metropolis, would powerfully tend to accelerate the discontinuance of the religious habits of a purer age, and to accomplish the substitution of a more relaxed morality. And it must even be confessed, that the commercial spirit, much as we are indebted to it, is not naturally favourable to the maintenance of the religious principle in a vigorous and lively state. 
       In times like these, therefore, the strict precepts and self-denying habits of Christianity naturally slide into disuse; and even among the better sort of Christians, are likely to be softened, so far at least as to be rendered less abhorrent from the general disposition to relaxation and indulgence. In such prosperous circumstances, men, in truth, are apt to think very little about religion. Christianity, therefore, seldom occupying the attention of the bulk of nominal Christians, and being scarcely at all the object of their study, we should expect, of course, to find them extremely unacquainted with its tenets. Those doctrines and principles indeed, which it contains in common with the law of the land, or which are sanctioned by the general standard of morals formerly described, being brought into continual notice and mention by the common occurrences of life, might continue to be recognized. But whatever she contains peculiar to herself, and which should not be habitually brought into recollection by the incidents of every day, might be expected to be less and less thought of, till at length it should be almost wholly forgotten. Still more might this be naturally expected to become the case, if the peculiarities in question should be, from their very nature, at war with pride, and luxury, and worldly mindedness, the too general concomitants of rapidly increasing wealth: and this would particularly happen among the laity; if the circumstance of their having been at any time abused to purposes of hypocrisy or fanaticism, should have prompted even some of the better disposed of the clergy, perhaps from well intentioned though erroneous motives, to bring them forward less frequently in their discourses on Religion.
       When so many should thus have been straying out of the right path, some bold reformer might, from time to time, be likely to arise, who should not unjustly charge them with their deviation: but, though right perhaps in the main; yet deviating himself also in an opposite direction, and creating disgust by his violence, or vulgarity, or absurdities, he might fail, except in a few instances, to produce the effect of recalling them from their wanderings.
       Still, however, the Divine Original of Christianity would not be professedly disavowed; partly from a real, and more commonly from a political, deference for the established faith, but most of all, from the bulk of mankind being not yet prepared, as it were, to throw away the scabbard, and to venture their eternal happiness on the issue of its falsehood. Some bolder spirits, indeed, might be expected to despise the cautious moderation of these timid reasoners, and to pronounce decisively, that the Bible was a forgery: while the generality, professing to believe it genuine, should, less consistently, be satisfied with remaining ignorant of its contents; and when pressed, should discover themselves by no means to believe many of the most important particulars contained in it.
       When, by the operation of causes like these, any country has at length grown into the condition which has been here stated; it is but too obvious, that, in the bulk of the community, Religion, already sunk very low, must be hastening fast to her entire dissolution. Causes, energetic and active like these, though accidental hindrances may occasionally thwart their operation, will not at once become sluggish and unproductive. Their effect is sure; and the time is fast approaching, when Christianity will be almost as openly disavowed in the language, as in fact it is already supposed to have disappeared from the conduct of men; when infidelity will be held to be the necessary appendage of a man of fashion, and to believe will be deemed the indication of a feeble mind and a contracted understanding.

 

heavens_devotionalThe Heavens: Intimate Moments with Your Majestic God (Kevin Hartnett)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

This devotional book is simply outstanding.  The pictures of the heavens, which continually display the glory of God, provide great backdrops for the messages Hartnett provides throughout the book.  I have to admit, I could not simply read one of these per day, like you’re probably supposed to do with devotionals.  I instead sat down a few nights here and there and soaked in about ten at a time.  It was really hard to stop each time, as he continually struck notes that resonated with me.  If you’ve found yourself wondering in awe at the heavens before, do some service to yourself and check out this book.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1–6 (ESV)

 

pilgrims_progressThe Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Here’s another classic I finally got around to reading.  Though the language was difficult at times to get through, I really enjoyed the journey following Christian through his trek.  I could see many aspects of my Christian journey as he went along, and I guess I have much more to look forward to.  The book does well to put on display what Paul might have meant to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."  By the way, I was quite surprised when the story ended half-way through the book, and I found there was a part two that follows Christian’s wife and children in their later journey.  Personally, I would stick with part one and move on to other books after that.  Or, maybe someone who’s read these before can enlighten me on the better aspects of part two.  I guess I just didn’t find much in there beyond what was already better covered by the first half.

 

restless_flameThe Restless Flame (Louis de Wohl)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jake’s wife Amanda loaned this out to me, knowing that I had read Augustine’s original Confessions, which this book is based on.  I hadn’t heard of hagiographies, or historical fictional biographies of saints, before I came across this one, but I may have to check out some more now.  I thought de Wohl did a tremendous job with the task, as throughout the entire book I could tell how closely he integrated Augustine’s own words from his biographical book.  If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely suggest you read Augustine’s own book instead.  However, this one is a quicker read, and provides a neat way to view things (even if completely fictional) though the eyes of some of the other people in Augustine’s life, especially his mother… a fine example of life-long devotion to praying for the salvation of her son.

 

gospel_star_warsThe Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope, and the Force (John C. McDowell)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Brian and I were having a discussion once during the Bible study T and I hold at our house that went something along the lines of how there are many aspects to Lucas’ Star Wars films that relate directly to the Bible.  Jedi and Sith.  Light side and Dark side.  Anakin’s "virgin" birth from the midichlorians.  Yes, you forgot that one, didn’t you?  Anyway, he found this book soon after and bought us both copies.  It was actually a pretty hard book to get through as McDowell was well-versed in theological/philosophical things of the world, and perhaps I’m not so much.  It was obvious throughout that he’s done a ton of thinking about Star Wars, as have many, many others.  In the end, Lucas’ visions much more closely fits Buddhism and other eastern religions far more closely than Christianity, and McDowell does a great job pointing that out as he goes.  And, here’s the real lesson… don’t forget to get your theology from the Bible, and not from Hollywood.

 

enoch_primodialEnoch Primordial (Brian Godawa)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This prequel to Godawa’s Noah Primeval was just as well written, and appears to based heavily on the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch.  I had read bits and pieces of 1 Enoch previously, but decided it was time to read through the entire thing before diving into Godawa’s vision.  Both were interesting reads, and obviously very speculative.  Were things really like this before the times of Noah?  Perhaps.  Godawa does a great job integrating 1 Enoch and other ancient histories with what little God has given us in Genesis and other books of the Bible.  Entertaining stuff, but like I mentioned above… don’t forget to get your history from the Bible, and not from fictional accounts.

 

momentary_marriageThis Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I picked up a free PDF copy of this from the Desiring God website, which it appears you can still do.  John does a great job laying out the argument noted on the website, that "the chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the common human conception is – and always has been – gargantuan."  After all, Paul points out marriage is not what most of us think of it in human standards, but is ultimately a picture of Christ and his love for His church.  How much we can learn by really soaking that in, and perhaps how much it could really change our own marriages, and increase our love for what Christ has done for us.

 

131_christians131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Mark Galli)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

How does one choose 131 Christians we all should know?  I have no idea, but there seem to be some great choices in here.  Many familiar ones will jump right out at you, but some might appear missing.  I found this to perhaps be more like: "100 Christians you likely have never heard of before, but really could learn from, plus some others you likely already heard about though maybe don’t know why."  I ended up reading this more like a devotional, taking my time over several months and reading about a couple people each night.  I would recommend attacking the book in the same way, otherwise I think you’ll just get lost under a sea of people and not learn much from their lives.  Of course, to really learn from their lives, one would have to dig deeper into whatever you can find out there on each person, rather than relying on the simple summary material contained in this book.  However, it’s a great place to survey the landscape of famous Christians throughout history and then branch off from there.

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Book reviews 4/29

It’s time for some book reviews again.  Seven months later.  Yes, that’s how I continue to roll.

 

who_ate_lunch_abraham

Who Ate Lunch with Abraham (Asher Intrater)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

This book was advertised by one of the charities I support, and I found it quite inexpensive on Amazon to read on my Toshiba Thrive’s Kindle app.  This was by far my favorite book out of all the ones I read over the past several months, probably because it’s right up the alley of the Bible study I’ve been leading at home.  Asher is a Messianic Jew, writing about many times Jesus shows up in the Old Testament.  His point in doing this is to demonstrate to fellow Jews that the idea of God showing Himself to us in the form of a man is not blasphemous, but is something God has been doing for a long time in the form of the "Angel of the Lord."  If you find it a big struggle to read through my lengthy study posts, or you’re annoyed I’m taking WAY too long to get to them (ha), here’s a great option to check out.

 

art_of_god

The Art of God: The Heavens and the Earth (Ric Ergenbright)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

T and the kids got me this for my birthday, and I fell in love with it.  Ric’s photography is simply amazing.  He not only captures the beauty and sheer awesomeness of God’s creation, but does an amazing job expounding on each photograph as well.  His inclusion of Scripture with the images throughout the book is the icing on the cake.  I’m going to have to soon find out if he has more of this kind of material (I’m too lazy to Google right now, though ;).  Let me know if you want to borrow it, as it’s a quick read/view, though I think you’ll want to take your time walking through it.

 

Counterfeit Gospels Final.indd

Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope (Trevin Wax)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I really don’t’ remember how I happened across this book, but it was a pretty quick summary of some of the prevailing false gospels out there within Christianity.  He chooses six main ones to work through (each with some sub-themes), points out what is wrong with each and why they are so attractive, and then turns back to how he sees the true gospel answering them.  In case you don’t plan to read the book, here’s a really quick summary, which ultimately can’t do the book justice:

  • Therapeutic gospel – The fall was the moment we failed to meet our potential, Christ’s death proved our worth as humans, and the church is there to help us find happiness and fulfillment.
  • Judgmentless gospel – Restoration is about how good God is rather than including any demonstration of His righteous judgment for rebellion, Christ defeated sin, death and Satan, but the need to avert God’s wrath through Jesus’ sacrifice is missing, and the church doesn’t really need to evangelize the world.
  • Moralistic gospel – Our sinful condition is only from our sins and redemption is through us working with God to stop committing them, the good news is the instruction to help us attain God’s favor and blessings for obedience, and the church is there for us to gather with other moral folk like us.
  • Quietist gospel – Scripture is of a personal nature only, Christ’s message is not for the political sphere or society but only the changing of individual hearts, and the church is to be separated and removed from the world.
  • Activist gospel – God’s kingdom is to be advanced by believers (we are the answers to our prayers), Christ’s power is to be demonstrated through social, political and cultural change that we lead, and the church’s role is to be focused on this change.
  • Churchless – Scripture is for the individual only (not a community), Christ’s gospel is only for individual soul-saving, and the church is an optional aid to our individual growth to be discarded any time it slows us down.

If you want to understand what the problem is with each of those, you’ll either have to read your Bible some more or go check out the book.  While I might quibble on just a couple things in the book, I thought Trevin did a great job with this.  I could more easily see how I personally tend towards some of these myself.  Reading through it, I think you’ll find out how much fuller (or maybe even simpler) the gospel is than perhaps you are being taught.

 

insights_romans

Insights on Romans (Charles R. Swindoll)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I think I now have all of the books in Chuck’s "Insights" series, though have only recently made it through Romans.  Chuck has a way of bringing Scripture down to planet earth that is unequaled by other authors I have read.  He chunks passages up in nice bites, allowing you to digest as much as you want during any sitting.  He also breaks up the study nicely with some personal stories that are usually entertaining as well.  If you’re looking for something a little less scholarly (i.e., lengthy commentaries with big, scary words) and yet with far more meat that a study Bible, these are a great option to dive right into.

 

feasts_lord

The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom (Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This is a nice, short trip through the feasts God commanded the Jews to observe, with a focus on how they point towards His prophetic calendar in the person of Jesus Christ.  When seen from this viewpoint, one sees there is importance in these feasts for all Christians, as some have already been fulfilled by Jesus, while others are still yet to be fulfilled.  I expect to consult this again along with my other resources when getting around to Leviticus in our home Bible study, looking for Jesus Christ throughout all the Scriptures.

 

heaven_for_real

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Todd Burpo)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

I had some trouble rating this book.  While there may be some truth in this boy’s story, written through his pastor father, or it may even be completely true, I’m not sure what to make of it.  One of the problems with near-death-experience stories is that they generally seem to side right along with the religious worldview of the person having the experience.  What do we do when a Muslim/Mormon/Hindu/Wickan/etc. has an experience like this, yet he or she sees everything backing their own personal views?  What sets this story apart from all the others that would lead a person to believe?  I think relying on testimonies like this, rather than the truth of God’s own written Word, can lead one astray.  Since that’s just a bunch of me rambling, I’ll leave you with one quick example in the book.  One of the things the parents seemed to focus on for some time was finding a picture/painting/representation of Jesus Christ that their son would finally say, "that’s Him!"  Well, they finally found it in the child prodigy, Akiane’s, painting of Jesus (Google for Akiane’s "Prince of Peace").  It’s an amazing painting, as are all of hers, but here’s where things break down a bit.  What do we do when we read some of her blog posts that are clearly against Scripture, yet she appears to claim as direct revelation from God?  That’s where the wheels come off for me, and why I guess I ultimately can’t give this book my recommendation, either.  This all requires some serious discernment, and must be tested against God’s Word.  If you want someone else’s thoughts, I felt this review was a fair one.  I would recommend spending more time in the Bible before spending it on books like this.

 

misery_job_mercy_god

The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

This poetic creation of John Piper, which depicts another side of the Book of Job, was a super-short read.  It appears John set out to give us a clearer picture of Job and his wife in their story, as well as maybe tie up some other loose ends someone feels are there in the book.  It was neat, and fairly well done, but I think there is a great gravity to the book that doesn’t require a reimagining of it, and God meant for it to include exactly what was there and no more.  It’s a book that requires much study, and multiple readings, and even some major life lessons, in order to fully grasp it.  I would recommend further study of the book itself before skipping to the reader’s digest, easier-to-read version here.

 

dont_waste_your_life

Don’t Waste Your Life (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Dear Lynn of Lynn’s News blog, someone we became acquainted with last year during her own trials, has been a real testament of faith to us.  She loaned us several John Piper books to read (including a copy of the book above, which we already had) several months ago and hopefully we can finally meet up soon to return them!  While you may notice below that I’m rating all of them 4 stars, this was my favorite of the four.  Piper has a nice treatise here on all the ways we can and should see in our lives a purpose for glorifying God, rather than wasting them in all sorts of trivial pursuits.  I don’t remember him mentioning all these movies I’ve spent time watching is too bad, so there’s hope there for me. ;) 

 

roots_of_endurance

The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I really haven’t spent much time reading biographies, and I’m starting to realize I’ve wasted a bit of time there missing out on them.  There are so many people’s lives we could learn from, and these three are no exception.  These men persevered through various trails in their lifelong pursuits to glorify God by doing His work.  Piper doesn’t simply dwell on the positives of their perseverance, but points out their own struggles against their sinful nature as well.  It was very refreshing to see such role models of the Christian faith, and yet at the same time see how they are human, too.

 

fifty_reasons_jesus_came_to_die

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This book was very similar to a previous one of Piper’s that I had read, "What Jesus Demands from the World."  The fifty reasons are presented in a few pages each, which makes it both a great page-turner that you can get through quickly if you want, or that allows you to check out and dig more into as a single reason a night.  I felt a few were repeats of others in order to get to a nice, round number of fifty, but as Jesus spent much time repeating Himself during His ministry (as well as the Spirit did throughout all Scripture), I guess reminders never hurt.

 

when_dont_desire_god

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Lynn loaned us Piper’s most widely recognized book, "Desiring God," which I already read, so it was nice to also see the other side in this book.  While his popular treatise is on how we are to desire God as our ultimate goal, this book provides some insight on what can be done during those all-too-prevalent times when we do not, in fact, desire God.  This one requires a bit more work to get through than the others, but was well worth the read.

 

read_bible_life

Read the Bible for Life (George H. Guthrie)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

I honestly don’t remember how I ended up with this book (whether I put it on my birthday wish list, or if T simply grabbed it during a sale), but it wasn’t too bad.  There is a whole set of study material that you can get to go with it, and we got the DVD along with the book, apparently.  I still haven’t watched it, but a quick glance appears to be George sitting around interviewing people and having group discussion.  The book itself contains several interviews with Christian leaders on topics related to how to study the Bible.  Personally, I could have done without much of the random "we were walking around in the garden" or "I asked this and he said something back with a big smile/laugh/chuckle/grin/etc."  I think I would have gotten much more out of it without all the extraneous detail.  However, I imagine there are many out there who enjoy things written this way, and you might be one of them.  Let me know if you want to check out the book and/or the DVD.

 

noah_primeval

Noah Primeval (Brian Godawa)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Chronicles of the Nephilim, Book 1.

Ok, time to step off into the fictional arena.  Here we have a really fun book by Mr. Godawa, as he imagines what Jesus Christ meant when He said: "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37).  Godawa’s vision of the times of Noah starts at about age 500 when Noah’s already heard from God that he is to build "a box" and is not really ready to do it, and continues until the flood.  The book hinges on the idea that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are fallen angels, and the Nephilim are the giant offspring of those fallen angels and human women (the daughters of men), which is something I’ve blogged about before.  While this book is obviously full of detail not found in the Bible, Godawa includes several appendices going into detail on why he wrote the story the way he did.  It’s a great ride, and the extra information in the appendices is a great walk through Scripture itself as you look to understand more, and act as a Berean from Acts 17:11.

 

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Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon (Chuck Missler)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Ok, I guess maybe we’re back in the non-fiction arena, but we are still with the semi-bizarre.  Chuck provides for us much detail behind the UFO phenomenon that we’ve most-likely encountered in one way or another during our lives.  For those who spent too much time reading about the phenomenon, there was a lot of repetition in the book that can be skipped, but for those that no little or nothing other than the word "Roswell," there might be a ton of interesting information in here.  The good stuff, which I don’t think he spent enough time on, is at the end, and is something I’ve briefly blogged about before.  Namely, he discusses the idea that the end-times great deception spoken of in Scripture could possibly tie in with UFO and aliens, keeping in mind that if so, these aliens are Satan, his demons, or some creation of them… perhaps in a similar way to the Nephilim during Noah’s time.  Anyway, if you have a desire to learn more, this is certainly an option to check out.

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