The Message of Malachi (BST) by Peter Adam

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This volume is part of the fine, economical Bible Speaks Today series published by IVP. The series is aimed at pastors and teachers and is one of the best at that audience. This volume addresses the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi. As one of the Minor Prophets, Malachi is one of the lesser known books of Scripture, and so help is appreciated.

The Introduction is a little thin compared to some BST volumes, but the author still well explained Malachi’s theme as a conflict between God and His people. The people contradicted the Lord in profound ways, proving their thinking was far the Lord’s conclusions. Their service was sub-par and they were in quite a mess.

He addressed some of the issues typically found in the Introduction in his lengthy commentary on 1:1, so look there for introductory issues.

The commentary is well written, engaging, and thoughtful. He ties in other Scripture appropriately and summarizes well. This will serve as a solid, helpful contribution to our studies of the book of Malachi.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

My Quest On Presidential Biographies

Have you heard of the popular idea of reading a quality biography on every President of the United States? There are blogs where bloggers trace their journey through the Presidents, there are groups on Goodreads dedicated to this pursuit, and there are far more people starting this quest than you might imagine. I don’t know exactly what percentage of them finish, but many start. Presidential biographies do quite well on non-fiction bestseller lists as well.

Why might this be so popular? Well, it makes a good bucket list item–I mean, we have 44 Presidents so far. Still, there has to be more to it than that. More profitably, it is an exciting and thorough way to grasp the history of our country. Even if you love to read, and even if you love history, have you ever read anything more boring than a text book? Stringing together key facts will never match the living tales of history’s greatest shapers. In addition, disgust with modern history might make going into the past a cathartic experience.

It takes some commitment. A biography of John Tyler, for example, will never match one of George Washington, but you will have to read one of him to finish this feat. Plus, if you pick the wrong biography, even the more interesting Presidents may be difficult to get through.

I have decided to join the other Presidential biography readers to the lofty heights of achieving this goal. My only difference is that I am going to be a rebel to the typical rules of accomplishing it. I will not force myself to read them in order, but as the spirit moves me. I also might read two or three of one President before I read one of another. The point is pleasant reading, learning, and growth. In other words, I am more excited about the journey than the summit.

If you know me, or read this blog, you know I read all kinds of Christian literature. That is not going to change. I also read other non-fiction, as well as only very occasional fiction, and I don’t plan to change that either. But I am going to fit this in even if it takes a lifetime, assuming I have a lifetime to give it.

If you are even remotely thinking about reading Presidential biographies, you must check out this blog: My Journey Through The Best Presidential Bios by Stephen Floyd. The amazing thing about this blogger is that not only is he doing them in order, but he is reading several on each President. Then he gives a detailed review on each title followed by a summary post on the biographies of each President. He apparently loves the rest of us to compile such an incredible amount of material for us. I will read him before I decide on each President. He even tells us if a volume is expensive or hard to find–talk about doing all the work!

As he has done, I am going to list each volume in my library. When I finish and do a review, I will link it in the list. Click on the highlighted ones to go to my individual reviews. I might even do a summary post on particular Presidents to share my thoughts about the man, unless laziness overtakes me. If any of my blog readers or Facebook friends and acquaintances, are either on the quest or starting it, please let me know in the comment section or a private message. My readers are overwhelmingly Christians (with varying levels of loving to read), but I would love to know if any others are on this journey.

 

MY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY:

Washington by Ron Chernow

G. Washington in the American Revolution by James Thomas Flexner

G. Washington: Anguish and Farewell by James Thomas Flexner

His Excellency G. Washington by Joseph Ellis

Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser

G. Washington by Willard Sterne Randall

G. Washington by Shelby Little

J. Adams by David McCullough

J. Adams and the American Revolution by Catherine Dinker Bowen

J. Adams by Anne Husted Burleigh

America’s First Dynasty: The Adames by Richard Brookhiser

T. Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

J. Madison by Richard Brookhiser

Madison’s Gift by David Stewart

The Last Founding Father (Monroe) by Harlow Giles Unger

J. Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger

J. Quincy Adams and the Union by Samuel Flagg Bemis

The Life of A. Jackson by Marquis James

American Lion (Jackson) by Jon Meacham

Polk by Walter Borneman

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

Team of Rivals (Lincoln) by Doris Kearns Goodwin

A. Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years by Carl Sanburg

Great Captain (Lincoln) by Honore Morrow

Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography

Herdon’s Life of Lincoln

Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant

Captain Sam Grant by Lloyd Lewis

Grant Moves South by Bruce Catton

Grant Takes Command by Bruce Catton

The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by Richard Welch Jr.

Mornings On Horseback (T.R.) by Davis McCullough

The Presidency of T. Roosevelt by Lewis Gould

The Life of Wilson by Josephus Daniels

The Life of Warren G. Harding by Willis Fletcher Johnson

The Autobiography of C. Coolidge

Coolidge by Amity Shales

H. Hoover: A Biography by Eugene Lyons

H. Hoover by Joan Hoff Wilson

No Ordinary Time (FDR) by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Truman by David McCullough

Eisenhower by Stephen Ambrose

My Three Years With Eisenhower by Capt. Harry Butcher

President Kennedy by Richard Reeves

Richard Nixon by Fawn Brodie

In The Arena by Richard Nixon

G. Ford by David Brinkley

An American Life by Ronald Reagan

The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon

Speaking My Mind by Ronald Reagan

When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan

R. Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader by D’Souza

Reagan’s War by Peter Schweizer

Reagan:Inside Out by Bob Slosser

Hand of Providence by Mary Beth Moore

41: A Portrait Of My Father by George W. Bush

Decision Points by George W. Bush

 

These volumes may seem a hodgepodge set and they are. I have picked them up over the years (I clearly have wanted to be on this journey for a long time and have already read some) as I came across them in good deals. I have several more volumes than I need to secure. Would love to hear any recommendations! God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Message Of Lamentations (BST) by Christopher Wright

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Here is the latest entry in the Bible Speaks Today series by IVP. This is a natural assignment as he already gave us an outstanding volume on Jeremiah in this series. Mr. Wright writes as one in love with the text and it shows on every page. He highlights things that interest pastors and teachers rather than the esoteric information some more scholarly volumes bog down in. He understands where this series is aimed and beautifully delivers.

I thought this volume’s greatest feature was how he captured the suffering and near hopelessness that pervades Lamentations. He drew the historical context with precision and the events of the fall of Jerusalem were too severe to sugarcoat. He still found what hope there was, he explained what lament really means and why such words are used, and where the Lord is in it all.

He filled the pages with good things. His comparison with Isaiah 40-55 and how it contrasts Lamentations helped make sense of the whole. This volume is a winner for a lesser known book of the Bible. I hope Mr. Wright get future commentary assignments as he is a joy to read. Pastors and teachers will love this book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

ftalk-guinness Could a book be more timely? Here is a man who has spent 40 years in the trenches of apologetics in our declining culture and who distills what he has learned and gives it to us in this volume. He sees apologetics in its noblest form—a way to lead others to Christ. I hate to use a trite designation like “instant classic”, but I believe this is the right place to use it. Mr. Guinness had me hooked in the Introduction as he perceptively diagnosed our age as the Age of the Self and the Selfie. We can never engage in this age unless we understand it first. It is the effects of that age that has done a number on what he calls “the art of Christian persuasion.” The loss of evangelism has been the greater cost, he rightly explains. He pays tribute to C. S. Lewis, Frances Schaeffer, and Peter Berger as those who have influenced him over the years and this volume is truly worthy to stand beside their works. I am shocked at how many sentences I underlined and how many paragraphs I starred all through this volume. It never lagged, it had no fluff or filler, and was masterful to the last page. I often give more of a summary of content in a book review, but in this case I just want to encourage Christians everywhere to read and interact with this volume. I fear my summary might obscure how good this book really is.  I give the highest recommendation possible to this volume that will likely be as important in 30 years as it will be when first released. I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Prospects Of Our Future In These Days Of Crisis

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After my initial grieving process over the implications of the homosexual marriage legalization by a rouge Supreme Court, and after remembering all I have in Christ is eternally secure, I have tried to take a less emotional, but fully realistic, view of the future of Christianity. I have read so many thoughtful articles, blogposts, and Facebook posts by famous writers, and ones not so famous like me, covering the full spectrum of Christian reaction.

Notice I said the future of Christianity, and not my country. I have been unable to spin a positive perspective for my country. It is almost the best we can hope for that inevitable, dark changes not come as quickly as possible. Coupled with a corresponding defeat of free speech in these days, I can’t prop up our political prospects no matter how hard I try.

I’ve read where some have admonished fellow Christians for our misguided hopes in the political system. That is a fair point, for sure. The next great, super-conservative politician has never had even the slightest chance to be our Messiah and we should have known better.

Some have also criticized our emphasis on pushing morals in politics and law as a subverting of the Gospel. While I agree that the Gospel must be kept prominent and clear, and morals stay in its place as the law of God and not the salvation of man, it is legitimate for Christians to use the means provided by the government they live under to speak for truth.

When Israel was a theocracy, morals were critical in every detail of government. When she changed to a monarchy that was less the case. By New Testament days when she was a people subservient to Rome, God’s people had nothing to do with government. Besides “rendering unto Caesar”, Jesus and Paul almost ignored government. They suffered at its hands, but did not seek to change it. A full-blown anti-God government called for persevering in spite of it. As long as our government allows a voice, we should speak it. When that freedom evaporates, we just go on until the Lord topples that government as He did the Roman Empire.

It is in those very New Testament days that we may find a roadmap for our future and how actually bright it might be. Greek culture was the dominant influence of the Roman Empire. Sexual immorality was rampant and broadly acceptable. Homosexuality was common, and though they saw no need of the charade of a marriage ceremony, it was considered normal and even “noble”.

Especially when Paul went on his missionary journeys, he ran headlong into this culture. There were no Christian laws and no Christians in government to propose them. Christians had no voice, lacked freedom of speech (remember all those arrests in Acts), and suffered strong persecution (remember the lions).

How did that go? It was in that very environment that the extraordinary events recorded in the Book of Acts took place. Quite frankly, they turned the world upside down for Jesus! The Gospel spread throughout the world. The more it was fought, the more it spread. That makes for quite awesome prospects.

I’m still quite bummed about the future of my country, but the future of Christianity is none diminished. That is my hope today.

What God Said To Us That We Missed With This Homosexual Marriage Legalization

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I have been in funk since I heard the news that our Supreme Court made homosexual marriage legal in our country. I was even asking myself, why was I feeling this way? It really wasn’t a shock. I hoped for a different outcome, but in my gut I knew it would fall out the way it did.

I have felt what so many other Christians have felt. How did 5 individuals without constitutional authority for such a decision inflict us so? Why is Congress so cowardly, our President so ungodly, and a majority of our Supreme Court so traitorous? There are waves of anger, followed by torrents of fear. Our society in leaving God’s natural order sets in motion the unraveling of society itself. Then there are rainbow lights at the White House, …, well, you know all about those things.

There are arguments that love is all that matters. Funny, we don’t use that line in brutal crimes of passion. It seems all are going crazy. We can make a value judgment that homophobia is wrong, but we had better not say homosexuality itself is wrong. Morality all, with where we got it only being different. There is the Lord on the one hand, and man as lord on the other, but I digress.

It came to me why I was so low. I was grieving. I grieved as one who heard of the death of one he loved. Even if you know the death is coming, you still have the pangs of grief.

I grieve because I know what God said in Romans 1: 18-28. It is the only thing I have not been hearing Christians say. Read there how God gives the theological underpinnings of the Sodoms and Gomorrahs of our world. They ran so far from God and then (verse 26): “For this reason (exalting man over God) God gave them up unto vile affection”. “Vile affection” is then described as lesbianism (Verse 26b) and homosexuality among men (verse 27). In verse 28 they did not want to “retain God in their knowledge” and so “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”

Did you catch it? It is not that legalizing homosexual marriage is going to bring great judgment from God, but it is the judgement from God that brings the full unraveling of that country. I know of no country in history that ever crossed that threshold and came back. I love this country of mine. The stars and stripes, the strains of our national anthem, the story of the founding fathers—these things still give me goosebumps. So I grieve today as I know the Word of God is always true. God just said to the USA that He gave us up!

I will not, however, sink into my grief. I praise the Lord that the future of my country has no bearing on my Christianity. Christ lost no power when my country turned so grievously. His Kingdom is secure even if my country is not. Though the fall of my country may lead to persecution and pain, and that pain may affect my body, it can never touch my soul! I am still safe in Jesus!

What then are we to do?

  1. Never give up the promises of God. Stay faithful and close to Christ. Do not allow the sadness for your country impede your joy in Christ.
  2. Resolve to be true and firmly committed to God’s Word. For example, there may be pressure on pastors to officiate homosexual weddings. I have thought this through including possible consequences, and I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER officiate a homosexual wedding. Christ is worthy of my faithfulness no matter what!
  3. Resolve to be true even if pressure comes from non-governmental sources. We are living in days of pressure to accept a bankrupt sexuality and a bombardment of words supporting it and some we love may come out as a homosexual. We must love unconditionally and ever demonstrate that love all the way without yielding ground on what God clearly said. If a loved one decided catching rattlesnakes by the tail or drinking poison was their calling in life, would you accept it? Or love them while holding the line that they should not do that?
  4. Share Christ with individual homosexuals, love them sincerely; again, while holding the line. Truth is always the most loving thing to share.
  5. Pray for personal and local revival as revival is not tied to the government even if it is as anti-God as is possible.

Yes, I grieve, but my hope is secure. God bless.

Luke (PNTC) by James Edwards

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Looking for an up-to-date commentary on the Gospel of Luke? This latest offering in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series, edited by the venerable D. A. Carson, might be just what you are looking for. Mr. Edwards already contributed the well-received volume on Mark in this series, and this new volume has been eagerly anticipated.

The Introduction is relatively short, but its strength lies in discussing things you read no where else. If you consult several commentaries, they can at times be painfully repetitive. He makes a strong statement on the Word of God in his first paragraph, which makes you feel in good hands. His section on the testimony we get from Early Christianity is fascinating. History is his special trait throughout the entire volume actually.

I could not agree with him on sources. There is much speculation in such a discussion, and he does not just skip to the final form as some do now.

Despite my disagreement on sources, the commentary sparkled with great, pertinent detail that really gave insight into the text. For example, there was plenty of material on the birth of Christ that would help anyone teaching or preaching. In fact, I found that true in every passage I studied in it. I call attention to his masterful handling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. That was a joy to read and had profound spiritual insight as well. The Cross and the Resurrection were standout too.

I will always consult this volume on any passage on Luke that I study going forward. I predict pastors will love this volume just as I do. This is a winner!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached by Tom Brennan

  
This volume by Independent Baptist pastor Tom Brennan tackles the Sermon on the Mount for Christians today. In thirty chapters Pastor Brennan seeks to help us apply this great sermons to our lives. He does not subscribe to the theory that this sermon is not for this dispensation, and so draws out many points.

Published by Xulon Press, this attractive volume is well written and easy to follow. His approach seemed to me to be devotional, just as you might expect a pastor to speak to his people. The intended audience is the person in the pew. He has read widely and was especially good at drawing in illustrations or quotes to bring out his points.

I might quibble with him over a few points, but he tackled even the more difficult passages in the Sermon on the Mount without dodging anything. He even dealt with the one on divorce. It appears to me that he worked really hard to put this book together.

In that we have fewer Independent Baptists writing today, you might enjoy giving this volume a try. 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Sword Or A Club? (IBTR #70)

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Well, they are quite the different weapons. With skill, the sword can be used for precision cuts. But with a club, all you can do is bludgeon. With a club you can forget precision too as the questions are only what is broken and how much blood is on the floor.

As Christians we have a weapon and it is precise. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the heart.” Now that is a weapon!

It is a powerful weapon—I can actually think of none stronger. It is two-edged for the height of precision. Its precision goes where none other can go. If its precision to cut perfectly the joints and marrow was not enough, it can slice between our souls and spirits. It turns out that its work exceeds cutting and actually discerns hearts. Its greatest feature it that it is “quick”, which means “alive”. Where other weapons excel in death, it distributes life. No wonder we are told that “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.”

So it is clear what the Sword of the Word of God is. But we have a problem. Some wielders of the sword confuse it for a club. They see it as a traditional weapon, which, of course, leads to death. This error raises its ugly head all through Christianity, and Independent Baptists have often followed suite. They are quite clumsy with a club, but who wouldn’t be if your club is actually a sword?

There are a variety of damaging moves with the club. Some take God’s Word that is meant to bring life and take those abused by sin and abuse them more. Where God’s Word brings guilt to see our sin only to later remove both the sin and the guilt with its Gospel message, some explain the sin and bring on the guilt only to leave you broken and bleeding from its blow. Some then run from the Word for relief when only the Word can bring relief because some silly Christian soldier thought his sword was a club.

All of this is not to say that God’s Word doesn’t convict or tell me what is wrong. It tells reality in a Holy God’s Universe. But when its precision cuts tell me what a rotten sinner I really am, the grace of God springing from the blood of Jesus Christ comes surging over me. Here is where club users go awry.

I read that the legalist wants you punished. Apparently, the delirium that comes from club swinging makes one forget that Christ took the punishment. We proceed from there. The legalist wants you to pay where Christ has already paid it all. Lest our discussion get off track, let’s remember that is as true years after I’m saved as it was the day I got saved.

If we get that messed up, we speed down the slippery slope. First thing you know, some club gladiator with a Bible in his hands tells some battered woman in the throes of physical abuse that she must stay and submit. Or next we’re told we can’t report a church member for molesting a child because we can’t our take brother to court. The Bible was referring to civil cases in that instance, but a club is not, as we said, an instrument of precision. None of that is “quick”, or life. It sounds like death to me. It may not be a bludgeoned skull, but it is a butchered heart and life.

It is time to lay down our clubs. We are not even trained or called to use them. But let’s take the Sword of the Word of God into our hands as it is the answer for us all.

Find all articles in the series here.

The Message of Daniel (BST) by Dale Ralph Davis

Here is a fine volume on Daniel by Dale Ralph Davis, who is simply one of the best writers today on any Old Testament historical portion, in the Bible Speaks Today series. Helpful in the ways usually found in this series, this volume is also particularly so for preachers. It delivers at a level we have come to expect from Mr. Davis too.

The Introduction is short, but powerful in its easy repudiation of critical theories and dating. I would even call that section fun to read. I found myself agreeing with much of what he wrote.

Again, the history was superb here. Background on Babylon and the Jews in Babylon was illuminating. From thoughts on the diet put before Daniel and his friends to Nebuchadnezzar’s mindset or dream the reader gains much and through the more famous stories as well. He brings out the information and insights most needed

Since I have a different perspective than him on prophecy, I could not agree him on passages like, say, Daniel 9:25-27. Still, he was kind in presenting his amillennial case, and the other historical sections are well worth the price of the book. I would already label this my favorite from that prophetic viewpoint though I hold to a different one.

The book is enriching and I highly recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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