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Book Review – “NIV Essentials Study Bible”

From the onset I will freely admit that I am not typically a fan of “study bibles,” preferring to let scripture stand alone on its own God ordained merits. I am also weary of Study Bibles because they run the risk of promoting questionable doctrine. The clearest example of such an issue comes from the granddaddy of all study bibles, and the one I also consider to be the least reliable and most detrimental of them all, the Scofield Study Bible. According to Scofield’s notes Jesus is what can be called a “parenthetical insert” into history because salvation history has been detoured into the Church age until the Jewish people are ready to return to God. From his perspective Jesus did not intend to establish a Church, and the very idea of the “Church” is God’s plan “B” because the Jews of Jesus day rejected him as Messiah. This idea is absurd, when one takes into account the sovereignty of God over all things, yet over the years I’ve heard this idea preached and taught by preachers and teachers.  

Personally I use the Thompson Chain Reference Bible (NASB) for my personal study and preparation. A “cross reference bible” is different from a “study bible,” in that it only provides relevant parallel references, not the theological considerations of men. Truth be told I have a love/hate relationship with study bibles, I do own a few of them, and my favorite would have to be the Archeology Study Bible, which I have found to be a better than average production as far as “study bibles” are concerned.

Last week I received a review copy of the new “NIV Essentials Study Bible,” and have spent the past week reading through it and evaluating its notes, references, and overall presentation style. Upon evaluation, I believe that this study bible is an excellent resource for the study of scripture, especially for a new believer. While I didn’t have the to read every study note and comment, those which I did read, focusing on what are considered to be “controversial” texts showed great respect for the text, and tended to avoided the pit-fall of bending scripture to fit the commentators theological perspective. While I may not personally agree with all of the comments, and who would, I didn’t find any of them particularly egregious.  

With this “study bible” there is little to condemn, and much to praise… I very much loved its “Lens” layout, and how it drew insight from the other excellent resources and study bibles which utilize the NIV text.

Flyover Lens: Start each book of the Bible with the right perspective from easy-to-read introductions from the popular Essential Bible Companion.

Unpack Lens: Easily understand and interpret Bible passages with bottom-of-the page study notes and in-text charts from the best-in-class NIV Study Bible.

Dig Deep, Look Close Lens: Understand the fascinating historical significance of the Bible with articles and photos from the bestselling NIV Archaeological Study Bible. (Which is still my favorite Study Bible)

Q & A Lens: Get concise, easy-to-grasp answers to your most perplexing questions about the Bible with questions and answers from the beloved NIV Quest Study Bible. (Which is still probably the best Study Bible for new believers)

People Lens: View Scripture from the perspective of the 100 most important people in the Bible with notes for the student of any age excerpted from the timeless NIV Student Bible. (The first Study Bible I ever used, and still love it for its clarity and simplicity

Guided Tour Lens: Get a bird’s eyes view of Scripture with a Guided Tour, also excerpted from the category-leading NIV Student Bible.  

Insight Lens: Find meaning in the Bible by reading these magazine-style call-outs from the NIV Student Bible.

R &R Lens: Reflect and Respond with this quick inspirational focus time, which unveils the sweeping narrative of the Bible as seen in the award-winning The Great Rescue, NIV.

Back in the day when the “Schofield” study bible was one of the only options for a study bible there was a well-known spoof against it that was derived by editing the line of a well-known hymn: “My faith is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Scripture Press!” Funny as that line may be, it also serves as a sad commentary on what we imperfect people can do with the word of God, that’s why I’m so pleased that this attempt was as successful as it is. I give it 5 stars, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a “good” study Bible.

Book Review – “All You Want To Know About Hell” by Steve Gregg

Hell… no word in the English language elicits more negative and bone chilling responses.  Hell is the one location that no one ever wants to visit, its images in our minds eye are the stuff of horror movies and nightmares, a place of desolation, darkness, fire and brimstone, it’s the worst part of the bible, but the question arises, what exactly is “Hell.”  This is a question that preachers, theologians, and the common man and woman in the pew have wrestled with for generations.  It’s one that goes all the way back to the earliest days of humanity, and it’s one that isn’t going away. So we as the Church and as members of a broken and fallen humanity have to figure out what exactly we’re going to do with that mean, evil, bad and nasty place…

Through the years gallons of ink has been spilled on forests of trees in an effort to show us exactly what exactly Hell is, and in each of these one of three primary views has been expressed,

1)      Universal Reconciliation – in the end all humanity will eventually be saved, including those in hell who are purified by their suffering

2)      Conditional Immortality (aka Annihilationism) – those who suffer in hell will pay for their rejection of God for a season and then God will destroy them along with hell itself.

3)      Eternal Torment – those who reject God will suffer for all eternity in Hell

Exponents of all three views hold to the reality of hell, what separates them is the question of the duration of hell’s existence and the final destination of its inhabitants. When trying to sort through the competing views one can easily be overwhelmed by information overload, this is where the latest offering by Steve Gregg steps in to assist. In his most recent book “All You Want To Know About Hell,” he succinctly takes the reader through each of the primary views, examining the primary texts supporting each position, and said positions strengths and weaknesses. The book isn’t an exhaustive study of the subject matter, it’s an overview, giving the reader the most applicable information available, and inevitably Steve will be criticized for leaving “something out.”

If you happen to be looking for a book that will give you a definite answer to the question, this book isn’t it. This book is one whose intention is to get us to think about the question, to question what we’ve been sold as truth for generations, and search out the Scriptures for the answer. This book isn’t about toting a party line, or pressing personal beliefs on the subject, it is in fact what I believed it was designed to be, a fresh look at a question that will not go away, a question that each of us must ultimately answer for ourselves.

This is an exceptionally well-written and informative book on the subject given the unpleasant subject matter. It’s clear that Steve has done his “due diligence” and has spent a great deal of time over many years researching and considering the issues involved. I appreciate his approach to the subject, and for the average person in the pew, or outside the church for that matter, no finer treatment of the subject of hell is available on the market today. I give it 5 stars!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.

 I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review – “Finally Free” by Heath Lambert

The following is an introduction to a series of sermons that I’m planning on preaching this coming year at the church where I currently serve as preaching and teaching minister… the series title is “World at War”

“If the enemy can’t beat you, then he will lure you to sleep with the ordinary, distract you with the urgent, and get you worked up over nothing. Every day we are bombarded with messages of power, success, entertainment, wealth, pleasure, and romance, and through these things the enemy seeks to convince us that our lives are somehow incomplete, and we spend much of our time chasing after these grand illusions that promise fulfillment, and in the process find ourselves chasing after false gods…we find ourselves committing idolatry! It sounds strange, it sounds like something from a bygone era far, but it’s real, it’s a war that rages within us, and it’s one we’re all fighting whether we realize it or not. Not only that it’s a war that has eternal implications!”

One of the pivotal battles of this war, and a cultural issue that the church has no other option but to address is the blight of pornography… This issue typically either falls under the area of “pleasure” or “romance,” depending on which gender one happens to be. It’s an issue that for years was considered to be a men’s issue, but the latest research shows us that it is now, primarily due to the ease of access via the internet, it’s an issue that is facing a large number of women as well.

Over my years as a minister I have counseled several men who have struggled with pornography, and have read extensively on the subject, so when this book became available I jumped at the chance to read it, especially when I discovered that Josh Harris, a man who I greatly respect had written the forward, I knew it was a must read… and I will say that I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s been my observation that most of the resources on dealing with the sin of pornography addiction, the amount of which is growing on a daily basis, all tend to focus on the idea of “fighting the beast within,” overcoming the issue by the strength of God, the strength of yourself, and the strength of an accountability partner. While there are some effective aspects of such thinking I’ve always believed that there was something missing in the conversation, and that something is “grace.”

If there ever was a more appropriate topic to focus on when dealing with the issue of pornography it’s without question grace! And this is where Heath Lambert hits it out of the ballpark! His work, “Finally Free, Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace.” Is one of the best works I’ve ever read on the subject, not only that, it’s one of those ideas that cross the road into other areas of life where we struggle to keep on the straight and narrow.

Lambert lays out 8 foundations which we can use to stand on in our fight against this sin; Sorrow, Accountability, Radical Measures, Confession, Spouse, Humility, Gratitude, and a Dynamic Relationship with Jesus. These foundations are built not on our own power or the power of others but the power of God, demonstrated through his amazing grace! (Side note: As a visual learner, I appreciated the graphic on pg. 15)

In this approach Lambert hits the issue head on, but does it in such a way that the audience can embrace the truth while, being comforted by the fact that they are loved by the God in whose image they are made.

Overall this is perhaps the best book on the subject I’ve ever read and I’m sure it will be one of my “go-to” resources in the future. Typically I find at least a few points of disagreement in any book that I read, but as of now (I’ve only read it once) I’m struggling to find any major points of divergence, which means that the author has done his work and done it well!

I give the book 5 Stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.

Book Review – “God’s At War” – by Kyle Idleman

Here several years ago I read a great little book by Tim Keller entitled “Counterfeit God’s,” about the empty promises of money, sex, power, and other things that we place in front of our relationship with God. The book was simple, yet profound, and if I were to describe it in a single word, it would have to be “amazing.” Here last month I received a review copy of Kyle Idleman’s latest work “God’s at War,” which deals with pretty much the same topic as Keller’s book only that Kyle uses more real-world experiences to illustrate his points, while Keller focuses on examples from Scripture. If I were to describe Kyle’s latest book in a single word, it would have to be “amazing.” He is a wordsmith of the first order, painting vivid pictures that bring the truth of scripture into to clear focus, to teach us, and to in many cases convict us about those little, and sometimes not so little things that we place on a pedestal and direct our worship towards. 

To begin the journey the reader is presented with a series of questions; such as; “what disappoints you?,”  “what do you complain about the most?,” “where do you make financial sacrifices?,” “what worries you?,” “where is your sanctuary?,” and “what are your dreams?”  These questions may seem somewhat simplistic and bordering on the mundane, but encapsulated in them are the very things that tend to drive men, and many times drive them mad as they seek satisfaction and wholeness in life. 

Kyle walks the reader through walks through several prominent concepts, none of which are inherently wrong, but often find themselves as the focus of our adoration, attention, and worship, especially in the affluence of our own culture.  

The book isn’t meant to be a deep theological treatise, but a simple straight shooting expose that can be read and understood by anyone, believer, or not. The concept of idolatry isn’t new, it’s as old as time itself, but Kyle’s treatment of it is a light shining in the darkness for our current generation, exposing the frauds that all so often masquerade as truth. I give the book 5 stars, if I could give it more I would!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.

I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review – “Tyndale” By David Teems

“The Avon to the Severn runs, the Severn to the sea, and Wycliffe’s dust shall spread abroad, wide as the waters be.”

These words were those spoken of John Wycliffe (1328 – 1384) and his life work in placing the Bible within reach of the common man. With his work and that of countless others through the centuries the die was cast, the English Bible, the word of God in the tongue of the common man would be a reality. But for that reality a stiff price would be paid, for God’s word would be born out of bloodshed, persecution, and the dedicated work of men and women willing to suffer the flames of martyrdom.  

One such man who played a crucial role, and paid a heavy personal price for the dream of a Bible in the common tongue serves as the subject of the latest book by author David Teems, a man of whom little is known, yet a one who helped transform the world; William Tyndale. William Tyndale; The Man who Gave God an English Voice, chronicles the life of the man who possibly more than any other, is responsible for the Bible being made available to the English speaking peoples of the world.    

Though a great read the title of the book may come across to some as misleading, being that it doesn’t fit the form of biographies that we’re used to seeing. This however isn’t said to fault or criticize the author, the form and flow of this book, as with any biographical book is determined by what information is available concerning the subject, and not much is known about Tyndale outside of his written work.

Not only do we not know much about his life what is known about him is clouded in speculation. Personally I feel the subtitle of the book more adequately conveys what the reader will experience.   Teems skillfully walks us through not only the life of Tyndale as a historical, but also the work that bears his name, we get to see how the man did his work. We learn how he compiled his translations, using the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts available to him. We see how he chose the best fitting words for the translation, a work that not only conveyed Scripture to the masses effected both literature, including Shakespeare, and our  modern English language which utilizes words he introduced to us for the first time.  

One of the aspects of the book that enjoyed was Teems use of the original Old English texts. Though this may frustrate those not familiar with the language form I found it to be a treat. The work is one that is scholarly in scope, yet presented in such a way that one doesn’t have to be an academic to understand it. Though Teems doesn’t present Tyndale’s life in a chronological order, he does provide the reader with a chronological outline of the subject’s life in the appendices, which is most helpful when trying to put all the pieces together.

Tyndale was a man who believed that service was to be first and foremost rendered to God, then others in positions of authority. This affront aimed at both King and Pope eventually led to his demise. He was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and condemned to death.

Reports of the time tell us that his final words was a prayer uttered with fervent zeal, and a loud voice”, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” Within four years of his death, that prayer had been answered. By the order of Henry VIII himself four English translations of the Bible were published in England, including Henry’s official Great Bible, all of which were based on Tyndale’s work.

I found this book to be a great read, though not a “biography,” in the literal sense; it aptly conveys the story of a life that had a profound impact on not only his world, but our world as well. It’s a book that I would highly recommend to anyone who desires to know the story of how the Bible as we know it came to be.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.

 

Book Review – “Our Last Great Hope” By Ronnie Floyd

not about theory, but about action.”

 These words from the introduction should ring out to all as a clarion call to all Christians concerning their part on the evangelization of the world! As the church we’ve had about all the theory we can stomach, now it’s time to take the theory we all know so well and put feet under it…. To engage the world!

The Great Commission… in my ministry no three words together get me excited more than these do. The fulfilling of Christ’s Commission, through the planting of new churches is the central focus of my ministry, so when I had the opportunity to review Ronnie Floyd’s latest book; “Our Last Great Hope,” which focuses on the fulfillment of the Great Commission I jumped at the chance to read and review it.   

Now I’ll be honest from the onset, I’m one who has a more “academically,” focused mindset; I love the deep theological and exegetical nuances that can be found when digging into various biblical themes. This book carries very little of that type of coverage, is not so much an academic work that dissects the Great Commission texts but more over is one that is focused on the practical; encouraging us to make the Great commission the driving force in our daily lives, and this is a move that is much needed in our world today, for though I love the “theory” the truth remains that “theory” will never and must never be a substitute for “direct action.”

While we live in a society that openly decries and despises the idea of personal responsibility Floyd builds a convincing case that the Great Commission must first be personal before it can be public  (corporate). He shows how a commitment to the Great Commission will affect our families, businesses, local communities, and then the nations. It’s the call of Acts 1:8 placed into perspective.  It’s a proven fact that when the message of Christ changes and individual’s life, then that individual helps positively transform their own community, and that in turn impacts the entire world, and ultimately brings much glory to God!

To hone in on the need to be “Great Commission Focused” Floyd presented his message by focusing on the following imperatives… those things needed for one to be truly “commission minded”

(1) Get honest with yourself (2) Wake up your church (3) Understand the urgency (4) Talk Jesus daily (5) Reach the next generation now (6) Minimize structure.

Floyd also openly and without apology shares the trends concerning Christianity in America and the state of the American Church, rightly pointing out that we are indeed  “a church in crisis.” I was also pleasantly surprised that he tackled the issue of “tithing” especially considering the current state of our nation’s financial situation, yet he does it and does so fearlessly! So much so that his statements on giving are drawing fire from some quarters (ex. http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/)

Floyd rightfully reminds us that giving is not a policy of convenience, or simply an option to consider, or an exercise for the super-spiritual, it’s required of every Christian, and that everyone should purpose in their hearts what they will give (2nd Corinthians 9:7) and that through giving blessings do indeed flow. This biblical precept shouldn’t be confused with the false teachings of the “prosperity gospel.”

If I were to voice any criticism concerning the book it would simply be two minor issues (1) at times I found it difficult to read, as the text didn’t always flow smoothly, (2) at times it appeared that Floyd was “name dropping,” in what seemed to be an effort at self-promotion.  As a church planter and student/teacher of world missions I have read many books on the topic of the Great Commission and though this book isn’t the best I’ve ever read on the topic I can say that without any reservation I recommend “Our Last Great Hope” to anyone searching to understand the great commission or looking expand their churches outreach efforts. It will go onto my list of resources that I use for teaching and preaching on the subject, and will be a book that recommend to others.

It was the great Missiologist Oswald J. Smith who made the observation that a church that didn’t take seriously its role in the fulfilling of the Great commission forfeited it’s biblical right to exist. No truer statement about the purpose of the church has ever been made in recent history, the question becomes are we listening?   

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishersas part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.

Changes Coming…

As of today; October 31, 2011 my blog will be headless… Over the past several months I’ve worked on and off with the appearance of my blog, but have yet to come up with anything that meets what I’m looking for as far as design goes, so until I get through this current “creativity block” the site will be esthetically naked, though the quality  content will not change. I’m hoping to re-launch the blog sometime at the end of December or beginning of January.