30 April 2020

Start Your Library With These Three Works

Just wanted to share another video by my friend Pastor Matthew Everhard on three useful, starter books every non-professional ministry leader should have. Be sure to check out his links.


13 February 2020

Book Review - Galatians: Freedom through God’s Grace by Phillip J. Long


I have always found commentaries useful. My eyes light up when I come across a new commentary especially by an author I respect. Such was the case with Phil Long’s new commentary, Galatians:Freedom through God’s Grace, published by Wipf & Stock.

Commentaries come in all types but can often be broken down into two types. Those that are technical (exegetical and expositional) which are often scholarly, go deep into historical data, will often have Greek translations of specific words or variants, and more that will aid in an in-depth study for pastors and teachers. Long’s commentary falls in the other category which is more devotional. It contains little of the above but is rich with material for the laymen although may still be utilized by pastors and teachers.

Long breaks down his commentary into convenient chunks for personal or group study. Each chapter concludes with helpful study questions. The writing is not technical in the least which again, makes it ideal for personal study. Long’s goal is to emphasize Paul’s overall point in the letter and he does it well.

At 156 pages this is not a difficult read. A good suggestion would be to study along with the author in each section as he has them laid out. To give the reader an idea what to expect, below is the table of contents:

1 Introducing Galatians | 1
2 One Gospel | 9
3 Paul and Judaism | 17
4 Paul and the Apostles | 27
5 The Antioch Incident | 37
6 Crucified with Christ | 48
7 Law and Faith | 60
8 Law and Promise | 72
9 Being Children of God | 84
10 Stop Acting Like a Slave | 91
11 Sarah and Hagar | 101
12 Freedom in Christ | 110
13 Life in the Spirit | 119
14 Doing Good to All | 135
15 Bearing the Marks of Jesus | 145
Bibliography | 155

Highlights? Yes! There are too many to mention in this brief review but I found that throughout the work Long’s emphasis on Paul’s point is worth noting, such as what we find on page 132:

Paul argues throughout the letter the Gentiles are not converting to Judaism and they are therefore not under the Mosaic covenant. But Paul does not release Gentiles from all moral responsibility.

Also worth noting is Long’s explanation of each Fruit of the Spirit.

This is a 5-star work. I benefited greatly from the author’s insights. Galatians: Freedom through God’s Grace would be an excellent study for any men’s study, women’s study, adult Sunday School class or personal study. I highly recommend it.

Wipf & Stock has provided a complimentary copy of this book. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

31 December 2019

2019 Year End Reading in Review

Here’s just a few of the books I’ve consumed this year. Obviously I’m devouring much in the field of textual criticism. Loved every page I’ve read and I can recommend each book in the stack below. If your seeking to deepen your understanding of early Christianity, get a grasp on textual criticism, and comprehend how the Scriptures have been passed down to us today, any or all the works below are a serious place to begin.

24 January 2019

Book Review: Can We Trust The Gospels? by Peter J. Williams

If you’re anything like me, you find the study of textual criticism fascinating. But, most folks in the pews today do not. They instinctively or subconsciously trust the translators down through the centuries that the Bible they have is God’s Word. Moreover, they trust the Lord that He has given them His Word. And that’s OK. However, what about the man on the street who struggles with questions of the age, transmission, accuracy, and therefore the truthfulness of the Bible. Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams seeks to answer those questions and does so successfully.

I have personally encountered these objections from people who reject Christianity based almost solely on the rejection of Scripture and therefore they reject God. This is one area that we who accept Scripture as God’s Word must have a basic understanding in order to defend what we believe. I was drawn to this book as soon as I read the title.

At 160 pages, it is not an in depth study of the Gospels or their defense and was not intended to be so. This work offers a basic understanding for evidence to believe the Gospels are worth trusting. It is, however, also more than just a cursory walk through of the evidence. Each chapter is written to enable the reader to have confidence that what they are reading in their Gospels is not superfluous nonsense written long ago.

Chapter Titles

1 What Do Non-Christian Sources Say?
2 What Are the Four Gospels?
3 Did the Gospel Authors Know Their Stuff?
4 Undesigned Coincidences
5 Do We Have Jesus’s Actual Words?
6 Has the Text Changed?
7 What about Contradictions?
8 Who Would Make All This Up?

What stood out, among many, many things, is why we have four Gospels. What was the focus of each one? Why do they seemingly disagree at times (chapter 2 & 7)? How the Gospels authors were aware of people, places, names, and culture (chapter 3). Where the Four Gospels differ from the later non-canonical gospels and why. Contradictions – are they really contradictions (chapter 7)?  How it would be impossible for four independent authors, at different geographic locations, at different times within the first century, be able to relate the same accounts in the life of Jesus. Chapter 4 is uniquely interesting. It demonstrates how small details that may appear in one Gospel account but not in another Gospel, such as the feeding of the 5000, corroborate the accounts as accurate and true and impossible to coordinate between the independent authors if they were not true. Thus authenticating the accuracy of the individual accounts and the Gospels themselves.

This is a five-star work. Easy to read, easy to digest and easy to enjoy. Well worth your time and effort.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

23 July 2018

Bible Review: The ESV Archaeology Study Bible published by Crossway

As an armchair Biblical archaeologist I was excited to see that Crossway has published The ESV
Archaeology Study Bible. I have numerous Bibles of all bindings, covers, translations, etc., but this Bible just may become my “go to” Bible.

Features? This Bible is full of them. It is a hardbound volume and at over 2000 pages, it’s no light weight. Features in this volume make it a valuable tool for pastors, teachers, layman, and armchair enthusiasts, like myself. Even if archaeology is not the reader’s main focus it would be an exceptional addition to any library.

Just some of the features in this volume are:

  • Archaeology articles of interest
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Sidebars (with an index)
  • Concordance
  • Table of weights & measures
  • Timelines
  • Maps (with an index)
  • Background of the OT
  • Background of the NT
  • Author Bio’s
  • Copious notes
  • Cross references
  • Did I mention maps?


This study Bible will be well used in my library for study and lesson preparation. And, it has maps. Did I mention that? Maps always give me a helpful point of reference for the Biblical narrative and this Bible is packed with useful maps and an index.

For the non-teaching laymen, this volume would simply be enjoyable to slowly sift through gaining practical knowledge while bolstering spiritual understanding at the same time.

Drawbacks? The pages are extremely thin. But at 2,024 pages and nearly 2” thick, they need to be. On the other hand, to contain as much useful information as it does, those pages need to be thin.

This study Bible is well worth the purchase price and contains so much info you won’t be able to put it down. I have spent many enjoyable hours just paging through it, picking up info I didn’t have. It may very well become your "go to" Bible as well.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

10 April 2018

Book Review: Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials by Dave Furman

There are many works on the subject of suffering. Many of them good, some very good, Kiss the Wave: Embracing Your Trials by Dave Furman is exceptionally good. Dave Furman is a pastor in Dubai and is no stranger to suffering. He has endured a nerve disorder that gives him pain everyday. He speaks not only Biblically on this issue but also from his own experience. Throughout the book he offers personal stories from his life. Suffering comes in many forms and Furman delves into them all.

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

As many know, this is a Charles Spurgeon quote.  Spurgeon suffered much in his own life from depression and several physical ailments as well. He was fully aware of the pains of this life and thus we have this famous quote from which the title of this book was taken.

In thirteen easily readable chapters Furman addresses the many aspects of suffering. Whether it be a physical difficulty, emotional distress or from many other issues, he takes us through and offers endless encouragement and many Biblical helps to sustain the reader.

Furman points out that we too often look for our significance from the world, depend on our circumstances for happiness, beg for physical and emotional healing all the while we may be missing God's point.

Rather with great pastoral care and love the author directs us to "...embrace the reality that God is using your pain to make you more like Christ." That's difficult to fathom but Furman explains this truth. "...The way to fight through our trials and grow in holiness is what we've talked about all through this book. Growing in holiness doesn't start by trying harder, but by believing better. We need to hope in the future grace we have in Christ..." God uses weakness to show our need for dependence upon him." Because ultimately, "This is why we kiss the wave. Our trials  are an endless buffet table with opportunities for us to grow and look more like Christ. As you struggle through your pain, be comforted that God is not wasting this trial but is doing a good work in you..." (All quotes from Kiss the Wave: Embracing Your Trials by Dave Furman.)

Furman never minimizes the pain the reader may be going through. He knows of it all too well. But he equally knows he easy it is to let frustration rule, to feel self pity, and to give over to sin in our darkest moments.

Furman's final chapter and conclusion are most encouraging. I'll leave that for the reader to explore. The appendix includes helpful recommended resources, a general index and a scripture index.

Give this book a read. You'll find it most helpful and encouraging.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.

27 October 2017

Book Review: How to Read Understand the Old Testament Prophets by Peter J. Gentry

Many Christians struggle to make sense of the Old Testament. If you fall into this camp, you're not alone. Its not easy, let's face it. Peter Gentry's new book, How to Read & Understand the Old Testament Prophets is a great read and one that can assist the Bible reader with comprehension of the O.T.

This is not a scholarly work. It is written in simple language that even the newest of believers will understand. It will open the door to some of the most difficult passages to wrap your head around and perhaps provide a new perspective on some of those same passages.

...reading and studying the Bible may not be straightforward for readers with a modern and Western background in culture and language. The biblical texts in origin are ancient and Eastern— they come from a different culture and a different time. Kindle Location 168). Crossway.

One of the highlights of the volume is acquiring an understanding of the difference between modern western literature and that of ancient Hebrew literature. There is a vast chasm between the two that most readers today are unaware of. Moreover, Hebrew authors employed the recursive approach.

The normal pattern of Hebrew literature is to consider topics in a recursive manner, which means that a topic is progressively repeated. Such an approach seems monotonous to those who do not know and understand how these texts communicate.  (Kindle Location 172). Crossway.

Grasping these two points will do much to enhance the reading and study enjoyment for the modern Bible reader.

As Gentry continues, he offers specific and valuable examples from the O.T., often from Isaiah. These examples will do much to increase the reader's grasp of the prophets. Word pairs, triplets, typology, metaphors, symbolic language and especially apocalyptic language are subjects covered with enough clarity that the reader will derive an enhanced ability to engage with the OT authors.

Of most import, why was this written for us? What was the ultimate purpose?

...one major purpose of the Old Testament prophets was to bring the people back to faithful love and loyalty to Yahweh in the covenant relationship established at Sinai (Exodus   19– 24) and renewed at Moab (Deuteronomy). (Kindle Locations 446-447). Crossway. 

I can recommend this book with great enthusiasm. Not all of Scripture is perspicuous and this book will be an indispensable aid to those who wish to delve further and more deeply in the study of the O.T.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.


For further reading and study

Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation by G. K. Beale















Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by D. A. Carson & G.K. Beale

27 July 2017

Authors Dr. Carl Trueman and Dr. T. David Gordon speak on the Reformation



Authors Dr. Carl Trueman and Dr. T. David Gordon spoke at the recent Remembering & Renewing Reformation Conference in Hudson, Ohio. Click here for the audio and please share. Don't forget to check out their books, too.

27 May 2017

A Brief History of Sunday


A Brief History of Sunday is the latest from author Justo Gonzalez. Gonzalez has written numerous works on church history and this appears to be another worth while read. Watch the author interviews and see what you think.





More from the author.

 

11 April 2017

Book Review: ReSet: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

I suppose it can happen to all of us. Well, it can happen to any of us - Burnout. Burnout can manifest itself in a number of ways and be triggered by a number of reasons. It's not black and white. It's multifaceted and can be affecting any of us without us realizing it, at least not a first. We may recognize many of the symptoms but be clueless to their origins and how we may resolve the issues we're experiencing.

Author David Murray, is a pastor, teacher, speaker, and blogger at headhearthand.org. Within the pages of ReSet he reveals the origins of burnout and as the reader progresses through the work is taught methods of effectively dealing with it. Murray calls it living the "Grace-paced life." We spend much time and effort in many worthwhile pursuits, but are they always beneficial?

Early on Murray calls the reader to a Reality Check as we miss many of the warning signs, Murray provides us with a list of warning signs to beware of or perhaps already experiencing. One should carefully review the warning signs and realize that part of the grace-paced life is slowing down from the "over-paced life."

In the following chapters Murray covers an array of areas wherein the reader should focus:

-What the cause(s) may be
-The need for sleep
-The need for routine mixed with play
-The need for exercise and rest and quietness
-Realizing our true identity
-The value of failure and the necessity to accept change
-Rethinking our purpose
-Eating right
-The need for proper and regular devotions

And much more.

Burnout is real and can affect any of us differently. My suggestion is to take this book seriously and consider the implications on your life. Consider if you are burned out. Murray offers much sound biblical advice from his own life experiences and from those he has counseled. I firmly commend this book to all men, especially those who are weary. There is much hope and value to be gleaned from its pages.

David Murray is also the author of Christians Get Depressed, Too and Jesus On Every Page. I can heartily recommend both of these works to the reader as well.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.

15 September 2016

Book Review: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised

Sadly, many of us don't know our Old Testament. Moreover, we don't know the typologies, prophecies and other numerous connections to the New Testament. We live in an odd age where we have much information at our fingertips and we often choose to ignore it. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised is a book not to be ignored.

This book walks the reader through the Old Testament offering an understanding many Evangelicals, many Christians, just don't have. It was penned for everyone from the layman to the pastor. Everyone can glean knowledge from this work. The authors are scholars and teachers, past and present, that know their subjects well. They have written in a clear, simple fashion, defining terms and footnoting heavily. Undoubtedly, this was written for the seasoned Christian and new believer alike.

Countless questions on the Old Testament are answered within these pages. If you don't realize many of these questions are issues perhaps you should begin reading BTIOT now.

How do we know these texts should be in the O.T. canon?
Who wrote these texts?
Which book is at the heart of the O.T.?
Why doesn't the book of Esther ever mention God?
What is the difference between Kings, Samuel and Chronicles? Are the differences important?
Why are there different genres within the O.T.?
Why should you read and study the most depressing book of the O.T., Lamentations?
What's the connection between Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles?

Yes each chapter contains book background, authorship info, key themes, excellent bibliography and extensive footnotes.

This one gets 5 out of 5 stars. Friends, it is time to start studying.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.
other numerous connections to the New Testament. We live in an odd age where we have much information at our fingertips and we often choose to ignore it.

14 June 2016

Five Ways to Improve Your Reading

How much do you get out of your reading? Perhaps you're one of the fortunate few you can read a book quickly and retain it. Most of us aren't like that. We toil over a book to learn and enjoy what we can but soon lose what we've read. Allow me to provide a few ideas to make your reading more profitable. Having trouble just getting started? Check out this link.

Read Slower
If you choose a work to read it must have some envisioned value to you. There's no need to rush through it. Take your time to read it. Slow down. Stop occasionally and ponder what you've just read and make note of it.

Take Notes
Many of us remember what we've seen, read or heard by writing it down. Read with a notebook at your side. Makes notes of the crucial passages you've just read. Write down what you want to take with you from the book. What you want to apply to yourself. I suggest a notebook or journal that you can shelve and refer back to repeatedly.

Write in the Margins
I know some of us are purists and don't like to write in our books. But a book is only a thing. It is the words on the page that are important, not it's pristine condition when we're through with it. Write in those margins! The next person who reads that book may profit from your marginalia.

Highlighting
Closely associated with the last suggestion I would add that highlighting makes it much easier to refer back to those portions that stand out to you. I often joke when I loan a book that all the important passages are already highlighted. So it is for yourself and the next reader, highlighting makes it much easier to go back and find that important passage the made you laugh, made you cry or simply something that you need to remember and apply to your life.

Review the Book When You're Done
Once you've finished reading, making notes and highlighting a book you've only completed the first step. Go back, review what you've read. Review your highlights and marginalia and your notes. Put it all together. Did you understand the thrust of the book? What exactly did you learn? How will you apply those ideas and suggestions from the author to your life and work.

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04 June 2016

Book Review: Spurgeon's Sorrows by Zach Eswine

I would wager that you know someone who is depressed, someone who is suffering sorrow, emotional pain. You may not even know who it is but you know someone I’m sure. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’ve felt this pain for some time now or perhaps a recent tragedy has invaded your life and it hurts – more than you’ve ever hurt before. The famous preacher of years past, Charles Spurgeon, experienced this sorrow, this depression. How did he handle it?

Zach Eswine, author of Spurgeon’s Sorrows, has done the research and shares with his readers the approach to suffering in all its varying forms that Spurgeon undertook to ease his pain while remaining faithful to the Scriptures. It was certainly a difficult road for him as it is for you, me or anyone else today. But the passage of time has changed little in the methods we should employ. This book does not propose to answer all the questions sufferers may have, there is no quick fix. Yet it does offer wisdom from Spurgeon himself who not only suffered physically but with depression and spoke and wrote about it often and his story is interwoven throughout the book.

Eswine guides us methodically through the many aspects of suffering that a person may experience. Not comprehensively as no one is depressed in quite the same way another may be. Commonalities however do exist and Eswine, with his own engaging style, has plucked them out of Spurgeon’s writings and sermons.

Eswine has broken down this small volume into three parts. Part one is an overview of depression and the difficulties in understanding it. Here we read what how it can differ in degrees of intensity and longevity. The difference between sadness and depression and how they intersect. How it began and how it deeply affected Spurgeon and some of the causes. He concludes this section with how circumstantial and biological depression comes into play with spiritual depression.

Part two consists of some of the methods we may employ to comfort those who are suffering and also the necessity to avoid trite rebukes (Proverbs 25:20). Depression and suffering is varied and there is no one-size-fits-all-diagnosis or remedy. But God's grace allows many to press on under these trying circumstances. Lastly in chapter 8, we read that Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) and there is much we can learn from that.

Eswine offers some practical helps in part three. Writing down God's promises and carrying them with us to refer to in the darkness and remembering prayers such as from Psalm 103:13 can carry the sufferer through sometimes. Natural helps such as rest, food and medications (taking medicine is a wise act of faith, not of unfaith) are also covered in this section. Suicide, the desire to depart from this world as Elijah did, is discussed. Even Jesus was stricken with this desire as we read in Matthew 26:38. Yet we choose life. Finally, sorrow is exceedingly beneficial for with it we know more of God's grace.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows is for all of us for we know or someday will encounter someone who is down, sad, depressed. Perhaps it will be our self. We need to have the perspectives that are found within the pages of this book and know how to use them for our good and God's glory.

02 November 2015

Book Review: Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms

Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms is my book of the year (for whatever that is worth). I’ve read or perused many of Packer’s books but this book condenses much of what he’s written over his lifetime and includes some personal history that puts it all in perspective. Unless the reader has read everything Packer has written, this book will be a valuable and insightful tool. In clear concise fashion Storms lays out Packer’s thoughts and beliefs on many, if not all, areas of the Christian life. It behooves us all to read, learn and apply these teachings.

In a world full of books on how to live and enjoy the Christian life, this one stands out. Storms delves deeply into Packer’s writings on numerous subjects extensively. Topics include atonement, holiness, indwelling sin, Holy Spirit, prayer and the will of God to point out a few. Packer, like many of us, began his spiritual journey under false teaching. Through a lifetime of learning and then writing he has shared much with us to correct our own deficiencies. In this work Storms has admirably complied some of the best.

It’s difficult to be precise on what most benefited me. Perhaps the chapters on prayer, suffering, and theocentricity left me both struggling and joyful.  I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to scour the pages and glean the best from Packer. 

The “on the Christian Life” series from Crossway is simply marvelous. If you have not started reading any of these I would suggest doing so now. They are a fascinating look into the lives of many well-known Christians that have blazed the trail for us. Don’t miss the opportunity to gain the valuable knowledge they gained.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.