Volume 2 of Allen Ross’s superb commentary on Psalms does not disappoint. It matches the excellence of his first volume, which I previously reviewed.Volume 2 of Allen Ross’s superb commentary on Psalms does not disappoint. It matches the excellence of his first volume, which I previously reviewed. Ross distills the insights of decades of research and study on the book of Psalms into a single tool that can truly be a one-stop-shop for the busy pastor. When the final volume of this commentary set is made available (later this year), students of the Word will have over 2700 pages of seasoned analysis and accessible information on all 150 Psalms.
Having provided a detailed introduction in his first volume, this book starts right up with Psalm 42, and continues through Psalm 89. Ross covers each psalm separately. He begins with his own translation of the text complete with footnotes pointing out meaningful textual variants. The psalm’s composition and context is then briefly sketched and an exegetical analysis (or outline) is provided. Then comes a detailed verse-by-verse commentary focusing on exposition, and all this is wrapped up with a brief recounting of the message and application of the psalm.
Ross aims to help modern preachers and teachers to truly exposit all of the psalms in their entirety (not just a line here and there). He blends contemporary insights with gems of yesterday as he analyzes the Psalms and provides a very useful tool for the modern preacher. Ross with help from the team at Kregel, has crafted his tool to be most user-friendly. The font is large, there are helpful charts and diagrams, and clear section headings which break up the massive book. He uses footnotes throughout for more technical discussions, but chooses not to provide Hebrew transliterations as a rule, preferring just English translations and the Hebrew words themselves.
Ross’s approach sticks to the text and emphasizes linguistic study. He does comment on the use of the Psalms in the New Testament and is not afraid to mine the typological and messianic riches so often found in Psalms. Biblical theology, and intratextual allusions and connections are not featured prominently in his work. But his volume is a wealth of information for the busy pastor or lay teacher, and his care with the text is commendable.
I will be looking for volume three of this important set. I’m sure it will make a valuable addition to your church or home library. Pastors and students alike will want to pick up this resource and with Ross’s help unpack the riches to be found in the Hebrew Psalter.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Academic. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more
Samuel Rutherford is perhaps the best known Scottish Puritan. But his life and history seem not to be as widely remembered as other Puritan ministers.Samuel Rutherford is perhaps the best known Scottish Puritan. But his life and history seem not to be as widely remembered as other Puritan ministers. Rutherford’s legacy lays chiefly in collections of his profound and moving personal letters.
Richard Hannula brings renewed attention to Samuel Rutherford in his contribution to the “Bitesize Biographies” series from Evangelical Press (2014).
Rutherford had humble beginnings and even a possibly scandalous start to his ministry. He ended up resigning his post at the University of Edinburgh after some possible impropriety with his fiance. This may have been just an ill rumor, and Hannula doesn’t take pains to sort out the facts too closely, but moves on in his simple and straightforward account of Rutherford’s life.
The next chapter of Rutherford’s life finds him as a humble pastor in Anworth. And there he labored in preaching and declaring the loveliness of Christ. His life was caught up in the perils of Scotland’s church, and his Reformed stance eventually landed him in exile 200 miles to the north. And it was this exile that may have birthed his precious letters. He wrote to his flock at Anworth and encouraged them to remain true to the Reformed faith.
Eventually when the Reformed party was in ascendancy, Rutherford was appointed as a professor against his will, in the University of St. Andrews, where he would serve for the remainder of his life. Rutherford’s scholarship was important and his devotion for Christ was unquestioned. He was needed to help shape the future pastors for Scotland. And so he did.
Rutherford was influential as a member of the Scottish delegation to the Westminster Assembly in London, which gave to the church the most enduring English confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith. He played a part in its shape, defending a Presbyterian form of church government. He also helped work on the catechisms.
This story includes the founding of the National Covenant in Scotland and the various wars against Charles I, and the eventual betrayal brought by Charles II when Scottish Covenanters unwisely accepted his promises in exchange for help. The intricacies of Scottish history still baffle me, but the phrase “for Crown and Covenant” has new meaning for me. Ultimately, the Crown was restored and went on to persecute the Reformed branch of the Church of Scotland mercilessly and again Samuel is found writing letters of encouragement to ministers who will soon lose their lives. Rutherford himself would have faced a martyr’s death but for his own sickness that eventually took his life. After his death, Rutherford’s letters were collected and published, and they continue to be widely readable and an enduring devotional classic.
This little book is not a true biography and includes no end notes or footnotes at all. It does recommend works for further study. It is a sympathetic biography too. And further, it is packed with quotes from Rutherford’s much prized correspondence and so it is part biography, part devotional classic in itself.
A few snippets from Rutherford’s letters may encourage my readers to pick up this book and learn more:
"I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Christ’s joys, my afflictions for that sweet peace I have with Him."
"Believe Christ’s love more than your own feelings."
"Your heart is not the compass that Christ sails by."
"O if you saw the beauty of Jesus, and smelled the fragrance of His love, you would run through fire and water to be at Him."
"It is not I, but Christ; not I, but grace; not I, but God’s glory; not I, but God’s love constraining me; not I, but the Lord’s Word; not I, but Christ’s commanding power in me!"
"You must in all things aim at God’s honour; you must eat, drink, sleep, buy, sell, sit, stand, speak, pray, read, and hear the Word, with a heart-purpose that God may be honoured."
"Woe unto us for these sad divisions that make us lose the fair scent of the Rose of Sharon!"
"When the head is filled with topics, and none of the flamings of Christ’s love in the heart, how dry are all disputes? Far too often, fervour of dispute in the head weakens love in the heart."
"Glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land." [Rutherford’s last words]
(Quotations from pp. 64-65, 106, 115-116, 132)
The work makes for a quick read, but many of the quotations merit contemplation and extended meditation. In fact, this book makes me want to get a copy of Rutherford’s letters to read the quotes in their fuller context. I recommend this book for those looking to learn from the spiritual journey of a man whose writings continue to bless the Church as a whole. It is an admirable introduction to Rutherford’s life and a testament ultimately to God’s grace.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more
The year is 1536 and Henry the VII has just proclaimed himself head of the Church of England. The centuries-old way of life is changing with the arrivThe year is 1536 and Henry the VII has just proclaimed himself head of the Church of England. The centuries-old way of life is changing with the arrival of new ideas and the winds of Reformation. Monks, nuns and their houses are in jeopardy, bishops must swear allegiance to the king’s authority over the church, but things are even harder for Anabaptists who eschew both Rome and Canterbury.
This is the setting of a fast-paced, engrossing tale spun by Henry Vyner-Brooks. "The Heretic" follows the interwoven tales of an odd cast of misfit-heroes. An Anabaptist’s orphan children, a leper, an eel-catcher and a prostitute — oh, and the monk whose past name is known throughout the land — these characters are richly developed as they weave in and out of a plot that includes stolen relics, ghastly murders, and enough chivalry and romance to picque the interest of a wide range of readers.
The book’s Christian message lurks beneath the surface for most of the story. The struggle of faith and doubt, and the dangers of reading a heretic Bible are presented in a realistic manner that doesn’t come off as wooden or forced. As a Protestant who has a positive view of the Reformation, the story’s stress on the negative impact of closing the monasteries and ignoring the poor, as well as the political undercurrents behind such changes all conspired to complicate the clean history we prefer to remember. In this and other ways the tale is a challenge to all of us to come to grips with our faith and be willing to stand for what we believe.
One irksome blunder is the mention of Calvinism and Geneva. Calvin only came to Geneva in 1536, when this story commences. And while he may have been known, he certainly hadn’t earned his reputation to the degree the book assumes.
At times, the story includes implausible elements, but on the whole, the story is rewarding and keeps you guessing. The end result is a medieval tale of suspense, mystery and a hint of romance that will make for pleasant and enriching reading. I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Lion Fiction through Kregel Pulbications. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more
There is nothing like great preaching. A gifted man expounding the riches of God's Word and applying God's truth to our everyday lives is something evThere is nothing like great preaching. A gifted man expounding the riches of God's Word and applying God's truth to our everyday lives is something every Christian needs. Good preaching breeds good preachers, and what better way to learn how to preach than by listening to a master of the craft preach and studying how he does it.
"Invitation to Philippians" is a demonstration of effective preaching. Now reading a sermon is not the same as experiencing one, but the warmth and conversational tone that pervades this book make it the next best thing. The book includes eleven sermons through the book of Philippians along with a brief introduction. Each sermon is situated with an introduction that draws the reader in, and then chuck full of poignant application and a clear explanation of the main thrust of the passage at hand.
Donald Sunukjian is a master preacher, and has written a widely used text on preaching: "Invitation to Biblical Preaching: Proclaiming Trugh with Clarity and Relevance" (Kregel). His comments on the text are relevant and timely, and illustrate well both how to emphasize the point of the text and also how to capture and maintain the attention of one's audience.
Occasionally he builds in dramatic effect, such as using a step-stool to illustrate Christ's coming down to our level. His sermons are very engaging and interesting -- almost to a fault. The only critique I would have would be that the text and arguments of the text could be emphasized more and greater attention could be paid to parallels and other Scriptures which support the preacher's point.
This book is easy reading and would serve as a touchstone for planning a sermon or teaching series on Philippians. I know it has challenged me to spend more time thinking about how I present my sermons and what engaging illustrations and poignant applications I can offer. Spending time to work on this side of preaching more promises to bless readers and help ensure the main point of the text is caught not just taught. I recommend this work and trust that other titles in the "Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church" series will be as helpful for pastors, teachers and eager students of God's Word.
Disclaimer: this book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Christians who love the Bible, should love biblical theology. More than any other discipline, biblical theology has the power to take the student on aChristians who love the Bible, should love biblical theology. More than any other discipline, biblical theology has the power to take the student on an exciting journey into the overall meaning of the biblical text. Early on in my study of biblical theology, I was told about the transformative power of one particular book and one particular biblical theme. That book was "The Temple and the Church’s Mission" by G.K. Beale (IVP). Eventually I read through that book and now agree with all the praise that was heaped upon it.
Beale’s work on the temple, showing how that theme is developed from Eden all the way to the New Jerusalem, can be truly transformative. Beale is not the only scholar to uncover this biblical theme, but his book perhaps more than any other, has advanced our understanding of all that is meant by God’s pledge to dwell with man in a visible temple.
The one drawback to Beale’s earlier title was that it was quite difficult to work through. Beale is exhaustive in his treatment of primary and secondary literature. He builds cases for each of the NT allusions he finds to OT passages. He interacts with the second temple Judaistic writings in his effort to understand what the people of the Bible’s day would have thought when they heard various images and themes about the temple. All of that reads more like a theological tome than a helpful and practical book for church use.
Finally, Beale has updated his original book and simplified it. Many thanks are due Mitchell Kim, a pastor who has used Beale’s material and also developed his own on the same theological topic. Together (and with the help of IVP) they have created a readable, shorter version of Beale’s original title, and even advanced beyond that book with more fully developed application of this theme for practical church ministry.
This new work, "God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth" by G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim (IVP), is going to be my go-to book to give people interested in biblical theology. It applies biblical theology for the church and will be useful for lay teachers, pastors and Bible students everywhere.
"God Dwells Among Us" is well written, clear and concise. It provides numerous applications, and takes the time to show how the interpreters arrive at their conclusions. The book does not directly take on dispensationalism, but does explain certain assumptions which may provide a reason as to why many modern Christians have not seen the full nature of the temple theme as applicable to Church today. This volume also doesn’t tackle all the questions posed in the bigger work. It doesn’t directly deal with Ezekiel’s temple all that much, and it doesn’t major on ancient cosmology as a way of understanding the Eden = Temple image. You will have to get the larger work for those questions.
The book includes a helpful discussion on typology and is much more fully developed, pastorally, than the older work. I appreciate too, that the punchline and the take-home application, are not saved for the end, but over and over throughout the book applications are made to the NT understanding of the OT teaching on the Temple and how this applies to us today.
I highly recommend this book. This is a must read theology book for everyone!
Disclaimer: This book was provided by InterVarsity Press. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more
Wonder, excitement, adventure, the thrill of discovery — these qualities abound in young, eager minds. But we don’t often associate these words with tWonder, excitement, adventure, the thrill of discovery — these qualities abound in young, eager minds. But we don’t often associate these words with the Bible. In "Alby’s Amazing Book," illustrater Catalina Echeverri does an extraordinary job capturing this excitement and showing children that the Bible can be exciting too.
The book presents Alby, a squirrel, as an explorer who loves encountering adventures in the books he reads. Of course, in Alby’s favorite book, there are all sorts of stories. But his favorite book is special in that he knows the Author. It is written to him with love, from God.
This accessible book is for young children but can be appreciated by upper elementary aged kids as well. The illustrations are engaging and invite closer scrutiny. Older children will catch that Bible verses and words form the background for many of the stories Alby encounters.
This book will make an impression on young minds, and hopefully will lead many of them to pick up Alby’s favorite book (the Bible) for themselves.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more
The "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series introduces children to key figures from church history. Author Simonetta Carr and illustrator MatThe "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series introduces children to key figures from church history. Author Simonetta Carr and illustrator Matt Abraxas offer a compelling and beautiful historical account of the life of each Christian figure profiled in the series. To date, the series includes volumes on John Calvin, John Owen, Augustine of Hippo, Athanasius, Anselm of Canterbury, Lady Jane Grey, John Knox, and now, Jonathan Edwards.
Jonathan Edwards was a giant of man. He is remembered in many fields as a bright mind and a extraordinary thinker. So writing any children’s book which does justice to the real Jonathan Edwards is a tall order. Simonetta Carr proves once again that she is up to the task of balancing historical accuracy and theological acumen with an eye to the attention span of young children.
An account of Edwards’ life is provided with an emphasis on his children, and interesting historical details of the age. His work on how spiders sail through the forest, gliding on air, is sure to capture children’s imagination. The account of Edwards’ ten year old son spending a year away on a mission trip to Indians will demand attention as well. Edwards’ theological contributions are explained but not detailed, and attention is focused on his care of souls and concern for the church.
This book is a joy to page through. Full color illustrations, photographs, portraits and maps, buildings and vistas appear at the appropriate time on each page. After the biographical sketch, a time line of Edward’s life is included, as is an excerpt from a letter to one of his daughters. Also included is a “Did you know?” section for interested young readers. There we learn about how ink was made and quills trimmed for writing. We also find that Edwards had a fondness for chocolate, as a beverage for breakfast.
As a lover of chruch history, I appreciate Simonetta Carr’s attention to detail and focus on historical accuracy. I learned many facts and saw Edwards in a new light, as a result of this children’s book! I am thankful my children will have an opportunity to learn about Edwards by means of this helpful resource.
This book deserves a place of honor at the coffee table, but might end up in the kids’ bookcase, more often than not. It also should find a place in church or school libraries. If you haven’t picked up a title in the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, now would be a good time. You won’t be disappointed with "Jonathan Edwards."
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Reformation Heritage Books. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review. ...more
As a former pastor’s kid (and assistant pastor’s kid, and later a missionary’s kid), this book intrigued me. As a former member of John Piper’s churchAs a former pastor’s kid (and assistant pastor’s kid, and later a missionary’s kid), this book intrigued me. As a former member of John Piper’s church, this book had special relevance for me. The author is Barnabus Piper, one of Pastor John’s sons. As a Christian who is recovering from legalism, this book was especially helpful for me.
In "The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity" (David C. Cook, 2014), Barnabus opens up about the struggles of growing up in a fish bowl. The author doesn’t claim to be a guru, but he is a pastor’s kid who struggled and erred, but also grew and matured and looks back on his time as a pastor’s kid and feels the need to share his experience both for the benefit of pastors but especially for the help of fellow pastor’s kids who may not have turned out as well as he. There are a lot of pastor’s kids, and some of them have jettisoned their parents’ faith and are jarred by the experience. Other’s may not yet have come to grips with why they struggle so much in particular ways.
This book explores the unique challenges of pastor’s kids and yet doesn’t burn the parents and blame them for all the problems. Pastor John actually writes the foreword and while Barnabus spares no punches, one gets the sense that their relationship is in-tact and both respect the other.
This is part memoir, and part self-help. And it isn’t all Piper’s memoir, as he shares stories from countless pastor’s kids he interviewed in preparation for the book. Some of them are not in the faith anymore, and it does us good to wonder why. Barnabus’ prescription calls for grace and care for children, and a proper set of expectations. He also gives hope to those who have been burned, or are wondering what they can possibly due at this stage in the game.
I particularly appreciated his emphasis on legalism. This excerpt resonates well with me:
"Not everything is right or wrong, true or false, yes or no. The PK needs some maybes and sort ofs. If every question is answered in black and white and every decision judged as right or wrong, the PK never learns to make value decisions. In fact, he never learns values at all. He just learns to dance the morality two-step and avoid getting out of step with what’s ‘good’ or ‘true.’ If every question is given a concrete answer and no room is left for exploration or doubt, the PK is forced to either acquiesce or bury his doubts where they can fester and rot his faith." (p. 83)
I listened to the Christianaudio version of the book. This was extra special in that Barnabus Piper himself was the one reading his book. This made listening to the book more poignant as his passion for his book’s message was evident.
This book is well-written and preaches an important message. I don’t know of any other similar book that is designed to both help those who have been hurt, and equip those in the ministry now who are raising another generation of children. Cautions are raised and challenges issued, but grace and hope pervade the book. This is must reading for churches, pastors and of course, pastor’s kids.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Christianaudio. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review. ...more