Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NIV Proclamation Bible - A Review

NIV Proclamation Bible


Lee Gatiss

in collaboration with
The Proclamation Trust

A Review

I like reviewing Study Bibles. Because of that I requested the opportunity to review NIV Proclamation Bible. Shortly after doing that, I found that the sponsoring organization came out of the Anglican Reformed movement – a world away from this Wesleyan pastor. I wondered what I had walked into.

My fears were unfounded. What the book offers to the Bible student are tools every Bible reader needs. What is omitted are the tools that would mark this Bible as being clearly “Reformed” in nature. The result is a well-designed book that will assist any Bible student in his or her search for truth.

  1. This edition begins with 10 essays that introduce the Bible and the tools that will help a student of the Bible in understanding, learning, and teaching the truth of God's word. Though written by reformed scholars, the essays themselves are sufficiently general in nature that they would help all, even the experienced Bible reader, dig deeper into the Scriptures.
  2. Each book includes a one to two page introduction – including a helpful teaching outline that could be use by a preacher, Sunday School teacher, small group leader, in preparing a lesson or series of lessons on a specific book. Each introduction also includes a brief list of suggested commentaries for each book allowing for further study. In addition, each book introduction is signed by its author allowing the reader to know its source and to evaluate its content.
  3. The Bible text contains single-column cross-references.
  4. A nice concordance and 14 standard Bible maps are included at the rear of the book.
  1. There are no study notes in the body of the text. With an ample opportunity to add a Reformed perspective to the volume, they have chosen not to do so.
  2. Along with no study notes, there are no references for further study of the text.
  3. The words of Christ are not in Red. For some, this would be an oversight. For others, myself included, this gives this edition of the Bible greater value.
Timothy Keller states, “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.” I would disagree – but not because of the book's content, but because it does not have the content which I might expect to find in a well-done study Bible. Having said this, the rich collection of cross-references and helpful Bible book introductions belongs on the desk of many a preacher, teacher, or student. I am glad to have it in my collection of Bible Study tools.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Think, Act, Be Like Jesus - A Review

Think Act Be Like Jesus cover.jpg

A Review

It was in January 2015 that I wrote a five-star review for Believe: Living the Story of the Bible To Become Like Jesus.  This month I received a companion volume that adds to the value of the original book.  

As a companion, the current work  follows the same outline as the original work. However, the author makes little comparisons between the two books other than to hint that they are both designed to help us on the journey to becoming more like Jesus. Both texts leave me anticipating what I will learn and how I will change as I move through their individual or collective contents.  Casual observation suggests that Believe is more closely tied to the Biblical text, while Think, Act, Be Like Jesus is more closely tied to the Christians personal life and what God expects from that life. That is not to say, the two books do not serve some of the same purposes.  The first book focuses on the scripture allowing the reader to dig into their content and discover for him or herself what they expect from the believer.  The second book focuses on the believer’s responsibility by asking more questions that will direct the readers thoughts toward a helpful path.

There are three ways these two books could be used to help the believer grow into the Jesus kind of person:

  1. Use the two books together, either as an individual or a small group setting - they do complement each other and the reader will be challenged by using the two in tandem.
  2. Use Believe in a classroom or structured setting.  Its heavy dependence on scripture (using either the embedded NIV or another translation) would certainly allow the student to draw their own conclusions as they seek to grow into the person Jesus would have them be.
  3. Use Think, Act, Be Like Jesus in a small group setting.  Its more directive approach would lead toward helpful discussion as a group of believers seeks to become more like Jesus.  

Having said that, either book could be used individually or in a group setting - but the above expresses how I might consider using the books. The teacher or small group leader would be well-served by having both volumes available in planning the course studies.  I continue to give both books, individually and collectively, a five-star review.  

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Battlestar Galactica Volume 2: The Adama Gambit - A Review

Battlestar Galactica

Volume 2: The Adama Gambit

Battlestar Galaxtica Cover.jpg

Dan Abnett (Author), Robert Place Napton (Author),
Deitrich Smith (Artist), Cezar Razek (Artist), Aneke (Artist),
Kewbar Baal (Artist), Livio Ramondelli (Artist)

A Review

I walked away from Graphic Novels (nee Comic Books) over 50 years ago.  I never expected to return.  However, over the last three years as I have found myself becoming a professional book reviewer, I have again picked up some fun Graphic Novels.  Battlestar Galactica is just the latest in my more recent venture into the venue. Again, I was not disappointed.

The current story has the fleet being chased by the Cylons into a new galaxy - with strange physical and psychological effects.  Commander Adama and his leadership team must protect the fleet from both antagonists. In the process, Commander Adama nearly gives up his command position - a roll the entire fleet needs him to hold.

The graphics are well-done, though they do not fit well onto my 7” tablet’s screen.  I used an 8.9” screen tablet and was satisfied with the results.  Of course, these problems are of no concern when using a paper copy of the book. The plot held my attention as I made my way through the 226 pages of excitement and extended covers included at the end of the book.  

Has it been 50 years since you last looked at a Graphic Novel or Comic Book, it might be fun to take a look at what is now available? 

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

When Lies Crumble - A Review

When Lies Crumble

When Lies Crumble - Cover.jpg

Alan  Cupp

A Review

The first in a series of books centering on Private Investigator Carter Mays.  If this book represents the quality of the books to come, it should be an exciting series.  The feel of the book is one of a PI series which could have been written 50 or 60 years ago with its romance, gangland murders, and crime families.

Sadly, I almost chose to stop reading after two or three chapters - the initial chapters seemed to have a somewhat stilted, immature writing style.  The writing improved through the last two-thirds of the book - and the climax made waiting worth the time spent reading the book.  It is this small hiccup that allows me to give this only a four-star review.

Hired by the young woman whose fiance has disappeared, unhired by her father, and rehired again by the father, Carter Mays must wade through the ethical issues of serving multiple clients with distinct motives for finding the young man.  Emotionally, the book served as a roller coaster ride as the author/reader begins to weave the characters and motives into a gripping story.  The surprising climax comes as the characters in the story find their lives falling apart; however, Carter cannot rebuild what they have spent a lifetime destroying.

Though a bit darker than the typical Henery Press book, it will still hold the readers attention. Do not open this book expecting the usual humor that typically accompanies a Henery Press book; yet, the book is exciting and worth the late night hours I spent reading this past week.  I expect the same would be true for other readers as well.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs & Symbols - A Review

The A to Z Guide to Bible
Signs & Symbols

Bible Signs & Symbols.jpg

Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor

A Review

An interesting look at the symbology found in the Bible.  At 288 page, only 272 having actual content, the book is a bit limited. The entries which are included are interesting, well-illustrated, and colorful.  Each entry, with the accompanying images, take up a two-page spread.  Some entries are quite detailed (e.g. separate entries for eagle, quail, and Raven/Crow).  Others are sparse (e.g. a single entry for tree, another for seed, but no room for the diversity of species which occur in the Middle East).  The lack of an index means that finding sub-topics might be difficult.  As an e-book, searching may be easier.  The value of an e-book would also depend on how images are handled by the e-book publisher.  In the paper version of the book, the images are heavily integrated into the text - to be of value in an e-book, the images would need to be set apart from the text allowing them to be viewed and shared separately from the text.

This book is neither an encyclopedia or a dictionary, but a picture book that handles the topics it does discuss well; but, because of its condensed size, only handles a limited number of topics.  I would like to have seen a larger, more comprehensive, volume built using the same editorial policies that went into creating this guide.

The book will fit well on the coffee table for either the believer’s home or the pastor’s office.  It will serve well as a beginning reference work for those topics covered, but will not become the go-to reference work for many important topics or most pastors or scholars.

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Sanctuary For Lent 2015 - A Review

The Sanctuary For Lent
Sue Mink

A Review

A nice devotional for use during Lent 2015 - the dated cover being the least useful aspect of this book.  The devotions are practical and interesting.  Most are rooted closely to the Biblical text, consisting of six parts:
  1. The date
  2. A scripture reference of 5 to 10 versus - to be read from one’s Bible
  3. A highlighted key verse from the daily scripture passage
  4. A devotional focused on one of the names or characteristics of Jesus (e.g. “Jesus is the light of the world.” or “Jesus is the conqueror of the world.”
  5. A brief prayer that summarizes the devotional - the prayer provides a handy way to remember the subject and content of the day’s devotional.

The oblong size of this devotional book can serve as a handy bookmark during Lent and could continue to be used for the purpose even after the Lenten season has passed.  

Though I received a free electronic copy from the publisher in order to create this review, I placed a quick order so I can distribute copies to my congregation the weekend before the start of Lent.  I expect others may want to do the same.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review and a second paper copy which I purchased for my and my church’s use.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, February 9, 2015

30 Events That Shaped The Church - A Review

30 Events.jpg

A Review

Partly historical, partly biographical, and partly anecdotal, Alton Gansky’s new book is an intriguing look at 30 events that helped make the church what it is today.  In no way does it attempt to identify the 30 most important events that shaped the church, but it does look 30 event (using the term broadly) that changed the church. over the last 2000+ years.  It should be noted that some events are specific events that can be identified in history (e.g. The First Council of Nicea); others are movements that occurred over decades or centuries (e.g. The Protestant Reformation).  It would be easy to identify a second book in the series (“30 More Events That Shaped the Church”) that would include additional events or persons that helped make the church what it is. For example, little is said about the Wesley’s or the Wesleyan Revival in England - an event that certainly shaped the church into what it is today.  Strangely, what is said focuses on their influence upon George Whitefield and the Great Awakening in America.

One of the greatest flaws in this volume is the lack of an index. More details could very well be mentioned about the Wesleys, but without an index there is no way to tell whether he or his brother or the movement that followed their conversions is discussed in detail.  An electronic version of this book (e.g. Kindle, Nook, LOGOS) might help with this dilemma - alas, I was only provided a paper copy of the book. Without an index the book lacks the tools needed for the future scholar.  Similarly, references are provided;l however they seem weak and incomplete. For example, the chapter on the reformation only includes four references, leaving one to wonder where much of the information was gathered.

Some of the subjects are discussed in detail as subjects, others subjects spend more time looking at the key individuals who played a part in defining the event.  An example of this latter case is the discussion of the Protestant Reformation - 80% of the chapter discusses the lives of Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin.  

Along with discussing historical events themselves, most chapters also spend a few moments discussing the significance of the events to the remainder of church history - as it moves into the 21st century.  I might expect that there would be some devotional value to the book - how do these events influence the average Christian today.  This is missing.  

Though I am critical, I do think the book has value - it might serve as a ancillary text in a church history course.  It might also serve as a refresher for the pastor or layman who has been out of college for a number of years and wants a refresher on church history.  Though there were significant holes in the book, I found it interesting and containing sufficient content to make it worth reading.

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Little Chick’s Bible - A Review

A Review

A cute, fuzzy, board book designed for the early preschooler.  The book includes eight Bible stories and pictures designed for the non-reader and their parents to share The front and back cover made of yellow felt-like material.  The tips of the chick’s beak and wings are floppy and can be pulled away from the surface of the book, allowing the book to be part toy as well as a fun book.  My wife and I will look forward to giving our copy to our 1½-year-old and 6-month-old grandchildren this Easter.   

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Bible's Answers to 100 of Life's Biggest Questions - A Review

A Review

I first met Norman L. Geisler 40 years ago as a student during my first semester at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The course was “Introduction to Apologetics”. I have seen and read a few of his books over the years, but this is the first book I have had the opportunity to review.

This book provides, as the title implies, answers to 100 questions. The answers are succinct, limited to one or two pages. They include THE answer, scripture, and external resources (e.g. web pages or videos) supporting the author’s view. Though most of the questions are theological in nature, each does include a one or two sentence statement as to why the question and its answer has application to our Christian lives. With few exceptions, only the last ten questions are directly related to the more practical side of life. Regardless of the question asked, Geisler does add his expected scholarly, thoughtful approach in answering each one. The reader will grow as he makes his or her way through the book - whether you agree or disagree with the author’s answers.

The order of the questions moves from very broad questions (e.g. “1.  What is Truth?”) toward more narrow questions:

10.  How Did the Universe Come to Be?
19.  Who is Jesus Christ?
32.  What is the Gospel?
67.  Does God Hear My Prayers?
73.  Is Abortion Murder?
95.  Why Are So Many Young People Abandoning the Faith?

From a philosophical perspective, this order makes sense. But for the unbeliever or new Christian, it may have helped to start with more specific questions and move on to the deeper, more specific, questions as one moved through the book.

Though I appreciate the book’s responses to the questions, I would much prefer a more balanced approach. An opportunity to study the multiple responses that believers have given to the various questions would strengthen the book. The authors attempt to give “THE” answer to each question, with little room for the reader to discover truth for themselves. Having said that, the writers do seem to strike a middle ground that might be more satisfying to many. For example, when asked, “Did God Pick Me or Did I Choose Him?”, the authors begin by stating that, “Throughout the pages of Scripture, the doctrine of free choice is repeatedly demonstrated …” However, they conclude by stating, “Finally, God chose us before we chose Him …” Similarly, when answering the question, “Can I Lose My Salvation?”, the authors reply, “Of all the questions, this one has certainly sparked some of the biggest debates in the church, and it is often to blame for much of the division among denominations.” However, they go on to write, “There are several reasons Christians can’t lose their salvation...”

I don’t question that the author’s can write the book they want to write; yet the reader must know that the authors are feeding answers, not helping the student discover the answers. This book presents a one-sided response, the true student will want to find other resources which present alternate answers. Geisler and Jimenez do contribute to the discussion. But the discussion must continue till we reach heaven and God gives us THE answers, HIS answers.

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.