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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

First of all I want to thank the author and publisher for making an Advance Reader Copy of this book available to me for a review. The book will be released on May 1, 2016. Go to your favorite book distributor and reserve a copy.

This is quite frankly one of the best historical novels that I have ever read. I think what makes this so good is that Tessa Afshar was born in Iran, grew up in a nominal Muslim Family and later moved to the West and came to know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

She brings a very fresh look at Biblical stories and also brings a great understanding of Anthropology and Sociology in regards to the Biblical Times when Jesus Christ walked the shores of Galilee.

In this story we trace the life of a young girl, Elianna, and her life with her Jewish family in Roman Occupied Jerusalem. She and her family must deal with the hardship of heavy taxation, bribes, thieves and the general hardships that the Jewish Religion placed on their people in regards to customs, laws, sacrifices, etc.

Elianna has a tragic situation in her young life when she takes her brother to a hillside to look at the flowers and has the unfortunate issue of his being stung by a bee and discovering (although she wouldn’t know this) that he would go into anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction. He dies and sets the course of her life on a path of feeling rejection from her father instead of love and acceptance.

The story weaves through her young life, through meeting Lydia the dye maker of the New Testament and how she works to bring about success to her families business while hiding the fact that she is the driving force, because Jews would never buy from a woman.

At first I thought this was going to turn into a so / so romantic period piece, but then it takes a turn at a little over the halfway mark. This turn sets the course of the whole story and ties it into a Biblical Character that you will be familiar with from the New Testament.

I don’t want to divulge who the individual is because it kind of would be a spoiler to the first part of the book. But I think you will like where Tessa Afshar takes the story.

This book would truly be great for a church book club or even better as a dialogue starter for the Gospel with someone who doesn’t know Christ or is a bit turned off by religion.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Joshua's Mission, by Vannetta Chapman

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for making a review copy of this book available to me. The book will be released on February 1, 2016, you can pre-order it on Amazon.

There are lots of “Amish” novels out on the market and they all seem to get a bit formulaic in the way they are presented. So it is with joy to find one that has a good twist of the story to make it fresh and enjoyable.

Joshua finds that his brother Alton is causing quite a bit of trouble during his “running around” phase of teenager years. He has bought a truck, taken up smoking and often times drinks and gets drunk, even though he is underage.

Joshua is the much older, more conservative, normal Amish boy that has deep ties to his family, to his church and to the farming life he leads. He doesn’t need distractions. So much so that he has yet to marry even though he is approaching thirty years of age.

But in a twist of fate his parents and the Bishop ask him to go on a “Mission Trip” to a small island off the coast of Texas where a hurricane has torn up the town and most of the island and people need help rebuilding their homes.

The catch is this, they are sending Alton and they want Joshua to go as his chaperon to keep an eye on him.

But also going on the trip is Becca Troyer, a nice young Amish girl that Joshua has noticed but never really made any effort to get to know her.

Now, the other side of this story is the parallel story of Charlie, his dog Quitz, and a grandmother and two children who have lost their home to the hurricane. Their lives will intersect with those of Joshua, Alton, Becca and another young girl Sara who come to help through Mennonite Disaster Relief.

The story is very good and touches on several subjects, such as;
Profiling of others
Eating disorders
Substance abuse
Commitment and Loyalty

The way they all come together is really quite well done. Then the reading guide at the end of the book will allow Book Clubs to have a great time of reading and talking through what they learned.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Good Girls, Bad Girls of the New Testament, by T.J. Wray

I was given an advance readers copy of this book. It will be released on March 2, 2016.

T.J. Wray takes us into the New Testament and non-biblical historical works to give short bio’s of twelve women of influence from the time around Christ’s life on earth and the times of the early church in the Middle East.

Each chapter will delve into the history of one or two women and give details about their lives as well as dialogue about the Scriptural texts that they are a part of. The work is not to heavily academic for the average lay person, it is well written and interesting for those wanting more detail about the women of Christ time.

Unfortunately for me I do not think that T. J. Wray gives the Biblical text the credit that it is due and that she does not take it as scared scripture of God’s word. Why, do you ask? Because I think that she makes some assumptions that the text does not always give.

There are details that are not supported by Biblical text. Such as her claim that Simon the Leper is the father of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. No where in Scripture is that fact given, nor is it a fact given by the Jewish historian Josephus. So, this leads me to believe that Ms. Wray takes some liberties with her interpretation of scripture.

Scripture should speak for itself and not be made an assumptive process.

So, with that said, I did enjoy reading her detailed script of the lives of the women, but I did not allow her discussions of non-Biblical facts interrupt my enjoyment. I have studied scripture and historians and thus have formed my own opinions. Thus they are mine. Thus I must allow Ms. Wray her opinions. But for my loyal readers I will just give this disclaimer to not accept assumptions that Ms. Wray makes to take the weight of fact without your own research into the historical texts of the time.