Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Kill Sign, by Nicole Christoff

Nichole Christoff gives us another excellent adventure with her Private Investigator Jaime Sinclair. The story develops characters from Jaime's past, her previous mentor and her best friend. Both characters give us background information on Sinclair that we kind of lacked from other novels. They give details about her training and her abilities and the raw natural instinct that makes her a great investigator.

We have further developments in Sinclair's relational triangle with her Military cop boyfriend and the man from the DEA that seems to keep coming into the picture and saving her backside from danger. Does she love Lt. Colonel Barrett or is she really drawn to Marc Sandoval, the DEA agent? These are the issues she is face with, at least on the Romantic side of the novel.

Then there is the thriller side of the novel, someone plants a dirty bomb at a function that Barrett and Sinclair are at and 41 people die directly from the blast and others get irradiated from the fallout. Is this foreign terrorist or domestic terrorist or something completely different.

Barrett and Sinclair are going to find out, but they will end up needing Sandoval's help to accomplish that.

All in all the story is well written, fast paced, full of twists and turns that allow you to keep trying to decide who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. All in all another good novel from Nicole Christoff.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Understanding the Faith, by Jeff Myers

Understanding the Faith is the second in a series of three books from Summit Ministries. Understanding the Times was their first book written by David Noebel and has been the flagship publication for Summit. Eventually  there will be a third book in the series, titled, Understanding the Culture. I look forward to reading that book when it comes out.

I first read Understanding the Times about 10 years ago when I was a High School Youth Pastor and was trying to find material for my students that would challenge them and prepare them for the future. Not only did that book do what I wanted but it introduced me to Summit Ministries and their course work that they do each summer in Manitou Springs. It is a great program for High School Junior's and Seniors or College Freshman to help them prepare for their time in college and the World Views that they will face.

This book, Understanding the Faith comes as a breath of fresh air for the Pastor who is looking for material for his church family to help them grapple with their faith and come to understand it in good foundational truths. I'm not sure how Summit plans to use these three books in the future but I would think that Understanding the Faith should be their first textbook to take students through.

The topics range from what the Bible is to whether it has any authority for us today and whether we as Christians should be Anti-Science or maybe Biblical Scientists. It grapples with the questions, 1) Is there Good and Evil?  2) Did God create Evil? If so, why? 3) What's the truth about Hell? 4) If Christianity is true why do people walk away from the faith?  These are all excellent questions and Jeff Myers does a fantastic job of answering them.

The book is long, that's OK because it is a text book.  I worked my way through it by reading a chapter a day and found that it took me three weeks to get through (missing a day here or there for reading).

I was so impressed and excited about how Myers handled the text that I want to push him to get the three volumne done so that I can continue on with learning, this time about culture.

BUT, since that isn't out yet I decided to go back and re-read Understanding the Times, yes you read that correctly, I'm going to re-read a textbook and one that is not short. BUT, the material is important and it is good for us as Christians to understand our faith, understand the world views that permeate our world and then understand our culture so that we know how to engage people in intelligent, meaningful conversations to help them learn about the Glory of God.


The Word of God in English, by Leland Ryken

As part of some course work on Bible Translation and Hermeneutics I read this text from Leland Ryken. I was very impressed with his scholarship as well as his patient and gracious handling of an issue that could cause some to think that he had a personal issue to vent in regards to Dynamic Equivalent Translations. But he gives good background to his thoughts and provides details of his research to help articulate what he is thinking in regards to translations.

There are two main translation types that most of us know about today. There are the Literal Translations (commonly known as word for word) and there are the Dynamic Equivalent Translations (commonly known as thought for thought). Although Ryken will provide background on both types of translation work it will become very evident which is his preferred style. But I have to say that I understand why after reading through his work.

He will go through the different structures and types of literature found in the Bible from Historical accounts to Narratives to Parables and Poetry. In each case he will examine the difference in translation process and give you time to dwell on what he has to say and then make up your own mind.

In the camp of Literal Translations he lists the King James Version, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version and the Revised Standard Version. On the side of Dynamic Equivalent falls, New International Version, The Message, The New English Bible, The New Living Translation and others.

What I found most helpful were the Tables in the back of the book where he diagrams out several passages of scripture and allows you to see how the different translations handle the text. This is very enlightening.

One final thought, he makes an excellent point about the original languages and the need for Pastor's, Teachers, Expositors and Scholars to depend on original languages, and if they don't read or understand those then they need to be prepared to know why they choose the translation that they will be working from and know whether they can trust it to give a good translation of the actual text or if they give a translation with their own commentary included.

I highly recommend this book to any Bible Student who wants to understand better the work of Translation of Scriptures and why there is so much difference in the translations that you find in your local Bible Book Stores today.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Way Through the Wilderness, by Rob Renfroe

Rob Renfroe gives us a wonderful discourse on what it means Biblically to go through a time of "Wilderness" in our walk with Christ. You will recall that Jesus was immediately driven by the Holy Spirit into the Wilderness for forty days after his baptism by John the Baptist. During this time he fasted and prayed. But also during this time he was tempted by Satan in an attempt to get him to stumble.

Jesus withstands the temptations by Satan and gives us a good example of how we should respond when we are driven into the "wilderness." But Jesus isn't the only example. What about Moses when he flees Egypt and goes into the region of Midian for forty years? Or what about the children of Israel when they are delivered out of Egypt but then face a wilderness wandering of their own for forty years?

Each of these examples gives us information on how we should respond when we are driven out into the wilderness in our lives.I think that my favorite chapter in this short book is chapter 5, "Avoiding Wrong Turns in the Wilderness." Renfroe gives us a good discussion on how we need to depend on God to take us through the wilderness, and how often we make wrong turns when we try to short-cut the wandering by following our own direction instead of God's.

This is a very quick read. It is only 140 pages long, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hold good solid truths that will aid us in our growth in our Christian walk. I think that everyone will gain some benefit from reading through this book. I would suggest that you maybe read it as part of a Book Club reading assignment and then spend time discussing the topics of each chapter with your friends.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Core Christianity, by Michael Horton

This is a very good primer for Biblical Doctrine. The short ten chapters take us through a variety of subjects and deal with major doctrinal themes, but it does so using very simple terms so that laymen and scholars alike will have no trouble determining what Michael Horton wants us to understand.

Horton starts with a quick discussion of why Doctrine truly matters. He has a simple premise in the "Getting Started" section, he writes, "If God exists, then he is the author of the story that includes you. The gospel -- 'good news'-- that the Christian faith proclaims is either true or false, but it cannot be walled off into a safe room of cuddly bears and the favorite blanket of childhood. Its validity does not depend on how well it works for you, how it makes your life more meaningful, or how it gives you moral direction and inspirational motivation. Instead the gospel is a very particular claim based upon events that happened in datable history with significance for the entire cosmos."

So, if God exists then HIStory needs to be understood. That means that we need a clear understanding of Doctrinal issues in relationship to the Bible and thus in relationship to our lives.

The ten chapters will take us through several issues:
     1. Jesus is God
     2. God is Three Persons
     3. God is Great and Good
     4. God Speaks
     5. God Made the World but We've Made a Mess of It
     6. God Made a Promise
     7. Joy to the World
     8. Jesus is Lord
     9. What Are We Waiting For?
    10. In the Meantime: Callings
AFTERWARDS: Tying it All Together

My favorite chapter is chapter 5, God made the world but we've made a mess of it. That is so true. The mess was not just Adam and Eve's mess, it is our continuing mess. We are not very good at following the directions that God gave us, and thus we mess things up.

This book is a great discussion started for any small group. Taking one Chapter a week will take you through any quarter of the year with a curriculum that will reach into your hearts and lives and help you learn Doctrine and make sense of the history that God has given to us.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Christological Anthropology, by Marc Cortez

So, lets be clear up front, as you read many of the reviews of this book you will come to understand rather quickly that it is a "textbook" and not just a casual read. It is intended for students of the Bible and students of Theology, Anthropology and Sociology. So, just know up front that the writing is from a professor who is writing in an academic style and for academic students at large.

That said, while at times the book may appear difficult to read and hard to comprehend it is a text that has delved into the issue of "humankind" and how the Bible and specifically Jesus Christ intersect with Anthropology (the study of humankind). If you studied Anthropology in college you will most likely have studied a "Secular" viewpoint of the subject. You will have learned quite a bit about culture, ethnicity, relationships and history. They would have been good studies. But most would not study it from the subject of the Bible and how God relates to Anthropology.

This text delves into the subject using the background of scripture and Theology to form a base understanding of Anthropology. It is well conceived and addresses the subject in a very straight forward manner. Yes, it will be difficult to comprehend at times, but if you are truly interested in the subject it is well worth your effort.

Thank you Professor Cortez for giving us a good text to indulge in and learn from.

Empowering Young Christians, by Cary J. Green, PhD

I must admit that i had a bit of trouble getting into this book. But it was my own fault and not that of the writer. Here was my problem. I'm semi retired and thus have known and followed many of the principles in this book. As such they were kind of "no duh." But I needed to remember that this is for a new era of Christian Students who are going to be facing the world and all that it has to throw at them.

Second, I was put off by some of the terminology. The concept of your leadership requiring "soft skills" is a term that is surfacing in todays leadership culture. So, when it was stated that your "success requires leadership and soft skills," i was a bit turned off.

So, as I got into the book I was confronted by a comment in the second chapter, on page 55, "don't let a negative attidue influence how you respond to something you read or hear." WOW, that hit me between the eyes. I realized that I was letting my own inner prejudice of "words" and "terminology" influence what the book was truly trying to say.

SO LET ME BE CLEAR WHY THE BOOK IS WORTH READING: The truth of the matter is that God intends us to succeed so that "His Name" may be known throughout the world. He has given us the Holy Spirit to allow us to develop ourselves and our work and study habits so that we can be effective not just for our own personal success but so that we can be effective for the success of the Gospel!

So, I went back and started reading the book again after my epiphany that I was being a bit harsh and unfair to the writer.

NOW, I saw his desire to help young people today to develop Godly skills that are Biblically based so that they can influence our culture for the Gospel today. If I took an honest look at the work he was doing I realized his motives were good.

As a matter of face he states on page 40, "Knowing yourself also requires that you understand your motives." This section goes on to give a great lesson on knowing why you do the things you do and the need to be reflective on your life so that you can examine yourself and make improvements so that your motives are Godly motives and not selfish motives.

As you read through the book be sure to fill out the exercises that the book has, you will gain much insight on yourself and on God through those exercises.

Also realized that at the end of each Chapter there is a list of "Key Points" from that chapter. These would be good for you to read through a few times and understand. Make sure you have picked up these points fully from the chapter before you move on.

THEN after you have read, keep the book around and put a note in your smart phone to remind you monthly to go back and read through the "Key Points" of each chapter as a way to remind yourself of the lessons you have learned.

I pray that God will speak to your heart as you work through this text.