Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Survive a University Religion Class

Michael Kruger on surviving a University Religion Course:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Epic of God

The Epic of God by Michael Whitworth

Michael Whitworth in his award winning book The Epic of God takes the Book of Genesis as his main textbook and outlines, brings to life, and applies God’s Word to his reader’s lives with depth and clarity.  Basing his view of the days in Genesis of creation as literal 24 hour periods, Michael explains that he believes this because other passages consistently conclude that there were six days of creation and one day of rest and make up an entire week (see Exodus 20.11; 31:17) (pg. 24).  in the natural way that you would see a week.  He sees the day-age theory as more as a tip of the hat to modern science.

I appreciate the way Michael weaves together a sense of the application of Genesis for our lives, like in his discussion of the Sabbath (23).  In talking about sin, Michael points out that sin is breaking God’s boundaries but also contains an emotional element as well (79), for sin breaks God’s hearts and it grieves him.  Overall, his presentation on narrative of Genesis weaves together the story of God’s work in the lives of fallen men and women but also a sense of the way God is bringing about his good through it all.

Michael makes an interesting point in his discussion on Sodom and Gomorrah that the reason for its decimation wasn’t solely homosexuality but also pride and an utter disregard for the less fortunate (182-184).  Theft and extortion, making travelers starve and other activiites were among the treacherous acts of the inhabitants of these cities.  Therefore, homosexuality was considered a sin but it was also included with other sins such as theft, bribery, not helping the lowly, etc.

This running commentary is a good guide for those interested in the book of Genesis.  Not so much a technical work but a popular work on the first book of the Bible, readers are sure to profit from Michael’s pastoral and theological gifts.

Thanks to BookCrash and Start2Finish books for the copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Canticle of the Sun or Canticle of the Creatures

Image result for st. francis of assisi
All Creatures of Our God and King (Trans. by William Henry Draper, Words by St. Francis of Assisi)

The hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, the English Christian Easter hymn by William Henry Draper was originally taken from the words of St. Francis of Assisi in his poem Canticle of the Sun (1225).  The poem was first published in a hymn book in 1919.  The poem is based upon the words of Psalm 148.  

Francis was born in Assisi, 100 miles northeast of Rome.  Born in 1181 or 1182, Francis was born into a family of some means, they were of the mercantile stock class.  Little education was given to Francis, probably by the priests of San Giorgio, he describes himself as unlettered but we know that he knew some French also along with Latin.  His first biographer, Thomas of Celano recounts that early on life for Francis was one of frivolity, lewd living, and arrogance.  Francis signals out his time with the lepers as one of extraordinary change, summoning him to leave behind all that was before him.  In his own words, Francis writes,

"...for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to lepers.  And the Lord himself lead me among them and I showed mercy to them.  And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into the sweetness of soul and body.  And, afterwards, I delayed a little and left the world."

As the words of this beautiful poem indicates, Francis had a profound vision of the goodness of God's creation, that the very creation of God reveals the glory of the Lord, in their activities.  The stars, Sun, wind, air, water, fire, and earth all give glory, give praise back to God in their own special ways.  This glorious delight in creation is part and parcel of a theology that is both God centered and full of a right kind of view of the whole created order.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace;
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.
(Saint Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun, Canticle of the Creatures)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Bible Story Handbook

The Bible Story Handbook by John and Kim Walton

This new book by John and Kim Walton called The Bible Story Handbook is a great resource for those wanting to teach the Bible to children but are concerned about interpretation and application.  The book is divided up into 175 stories starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation that combine sections on focus, application, interpretational difficulties, context and background.  Main takeaway points are in bullet points with succinct ideas that come from the text.  What is apparent in the reading of each story is that the Walton’s took time to focus specifically in interpretation difficulties that connect with the main points of application.  In turn, what you get is a well thought out synthesis of the biblical story that is God glorifying and edifying for the church. 

One of the last sections in each biblical story that the Walton’s look at is labeled Mistakes to Avoid.  In looking at Genesis 42-50, the authors mention something that is well worth repeating, namely, “Even though Joseph was the instrument of God who brought deliverance from the famine, we need not think that God approved of everything that Joseph did or that we should imitate him as a biblical model. His policies for Egypt did not focus on sharing; they focused on redistribution. They certainly should not be considered a biblical model for economic policies today. One might also question Joseph’s strategy as he interacted with his brothers. He was not showing love to them; he was testing them. The text does not seek to approve or condemn it simply reports (90).”  The text does report the actions of Joseph but fail to give a moral thumbs up or thumbs down.  It is healthy to see that everything that Joseph did was not always faithful to the living God.  I say this because we often want to put our biblical men and women upon pedestals, failing to see their failings also.  But, in the end, as John indicates, the narrative of Genesis 42-50 is more concerned with God’s actions than it is with Joseph’s family.

I hope you will enjoy this book as I did as a resource to use in church but also as a way to get kids at home interested and sustained by the story of the Bible.

Thanks to Crossway for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Necessary Grief

A Necessary Grief: Essential Tools for Leadership in Bereavement Ministry by Larry J. Michael

What are the necessary tools in bereavement ministry and how do we minister well to others dealing with the downtrodden?  These questions are at the heart of Larry J. Michael’s new book called A Necessary Grief: Essential Tools for Leadership in Bereavement Ministry.  

The best part of the book is Larry’s insistence on making clear distinctions between various terminology and offering a holistic view of ministry to those going through loss.
In the beginning of the book, Larry helps the reader by differentiating between grief and mourning.  Larry writes, “Grief is the inward process that involves our thoughts and feelings after experiencing loss.  Mourning is the outward process that involves the expression of our grief.  It is often referred to as “grief that has gone public (24).”  Mourning is the sign that we see all around us with morose faces, gloomy expression, and looking like a person is not fully alive.  Grief is the inward process, the questioning, the deep wellspring of loss that we feel as we know that person is no longer with us. 

Secondly, Larry carefully brings up some fallacies of grief that we often come across in daily life.  One of them, “Grief is something to Get Over,” was one I hear often.  Larry writes, “Grief is not an illness from which someone must recover.  It is a process to which a person experiences change and transformation over a period of time (55).”  Larry points to King David as one who grieved dearly after the death of his son Absalom, never fully recovering from his grief but enduring it till his death.  I would add that many people don’t know what to say to someone grieving deeply and so words are better left unsaid.  Larry also brings up the vital truth that faith doesn’t make grieving easy.  The comments that someone is in a better place don’t take away the fact that they are gone from a person’s life. 

Overall, I think this is a very good book and one that I will go back to when ministering to those in grieving situations.  There are also good sections on children dealing with grief. 

Thanks to Kregel Ministry for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dead Wake

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Whatever Erik Larson writes, I am sure to read it.  With his proverbial wit and historical detail, his new book, Dead Wake covers the travels of the Lusitania and the German U-boat that sunk it down.  With a careful handling of the events that took place before and after the Lusitania’s plight, Erik gets into the momentous event and the circumstances surrounding the massive Cunard passenger boat.  You get a behind the scenes look into the captains, the personalities on the ship, including a book dealer and people of some means.

One of the great strengths of the book is Larson’s detailed account of Charles Lauriat, Boston bookseller and collector of rare copies of Dickens and other fine works.  We get the sense that Larson was interested not only in the occupation of Lauriat, but his desire to find the most ornate copies of great author’s works and present them to others for sale.  For Lauriat, this voyage on the Lusitania was as much a business venture for profit as it was for enjoyment on a mighty vessel.

Larson paints a very complete picture of Walther Schwieger as well, the captain of the German U-boat which sunk the Lusitania.  The Lusitania for Schwieger was a prized possession, a boat to put on his record with the others he manned down.  Schwieger was a man of some skill, notching his destructive efforts in a detailed diary that was the glory of his possession.  Schwieger was competent, deft at patrolling the U-boats at his command and careful to jot down every ship he gunned down.

Dead Wake is a wonderful book, Larson gives us a vivid picture of Room 40 and Churchill, and the relationship that German commandeers had with ships coming into their area. 

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

For the Love of God's Word

For the Love of God’s Word by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Richard D. Patterson

This abridgement to their Invitation to Biblical Interpretation entitled For the Love of God’s Word is an excellent addition to the ever growing literature on hermeneutics.  The focus in the book is outlining how the triad of history, theology, and literature carefully considered help us in our interpretive strategy for each book of the bible.  Kostenberger and Patterson at the end of the opening chapter write, “Thus sound interpretation becomes the solid foundation for the application and proclamation of biblical truth to life (23).”  Thus, the way toward solid application is in the practice of sound interpretation moving from history, theology, and literature of each biblical book.

The second chapter deals with the historical-cultural background of the bible, namely looking at archaeology, cultural customs, and the larger historical milieu that the testaments were written in.  Attention is paid to kings surrounding the writing of the prophets, the Maccabean and Hellenistic time periods, and archaeology that has sustained what we find in the New Testament.  What I find very compelling was the comments surrounding the cultural custom of employing a kiss as a conventional greeting.  Kostenberger mentions that, “we may find application in today’s handshake or hug.  In these cases, we see to discern and apply the underlying principle involved in the cultural expression (52).”

The chapter on Revelation was very good in that it helps the reader understand the framework of apocalyptic as a genre but also gives concrete clues for interpretation.  In seeking to understand the symbols in Revelation, the authors give us a chart that deals with self-interpreted symbols.  In other words, when we see phrases such as, “they are,” “these are,” “which are,” and “stands for,” this should alert us to what the symbol points toward.

The chapter on Parables helps the reader identify various forms and techniques that Jesus uses in his teaching; overstatement, hyperbole, pun, simile, metaphor, and questions.  I really appreciated the way Kostenberger filled out his definition of parables that teach a spiritual or moral lesson by also adding, “When Jesus told a given parable, he aimed not merely at imparting information but sought to effect a change in people’s perception and a reversal in their values and world view (224).”

Overall, this abridgement is an excellent resource and aid to those who want to soundly interpret the Scriptures.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.