The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 4- Collector’s Edition

It is so wonderful to see this awesome series resumed after a delay. It turns out that a change in editorship most likely brought on the hold up, but what we loved in the first three volumes is still on hand here. I especially love the beauty and durability of these collector’s editions , but if you need to save a few dollars there is a regular edition as well. To me, the collector’s is worth the extra expense.

While the sermons here might not be quite as good as his later ones that have been long in print, they are unmistakable Spurgeon and contain much more than potential. The focus on the Cross and the call to repent and be saved is everywhere just like you’d expect from him.

Be sure to read the introduction so you can understand what they are trying to accomplish here. Every reader will have their own favorites, but in this volume it is some of the sermons from the old testament prophets that I found truly classic.there are a few where are you a crack a smile like the one on Deuteronomy 22:11 called “Linsey-Woolen Forbidden”!

The work is simply gorgeous as well there are photographs of his sermons as well as indispensable notes on every sermon. You will learn a lot of things about Spurgeon in those notes as they are impeccably researched.

They have re-calibrated this series and it will now ultimately be nine volumes. We are almost halfway there and what a jewel the set will be! Plus, it will be easier on the wallet to secure these volumes one by one as they are released and at the end what a treasure you will have!

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.

Tethered to the Cross–A New Book on Spurgeon

Maybe you are like me and already own most every book about Charles Spurgeon that has been written. At least those that are well known and have stood the test of time. Perhaps you were also like me and thought all of the most important books about Spurgeon had already been written. As it turns out, we were wrong. Enter this new book by Thomas Breimaier that makes a distinct contribution and approaches the study of Spurgeon from a heretofore untried method. He allows the sermons of Spurgeon to tell his theological biography.

Since this book is advertised as a scholarly study of Spurgeon, you might fear that that would add some amount of boredom to a book about him. Though the scholarly approach often slows down the excitement of a book, this book is saved by the words of Spurgeon himself. Spurgeon couldn’t be dull if his life depended on it!

I have never seen the terms “crucicentric” and “conversionistic” used so often in a book, and though they are so rare that they could not even pass my spellcheck, they are accurate descriptions of the essence of Spurgeon even if no one but scholar would use them. To be sure, for Spurgeon everything, and I do mean everything, is about the Cross and the need of salvation.

The book works too. You might think a book that studied Spurgeon’s preaching in terms of both style and theology couldn’t possibly share his life’s story as well. But it does. I’m not saying we have a new David McCullough here, but since it’s a biography you may already know anyway the story of a man we love is here.

The introduction discusses past works about Spurgeon and his sermons as well as describing the published sermons. Being familiar with all of those works myself, I feel this number is well done. The six chapters that approach Spurgeon both chronologically and involves the role of the Bible, his use of the text in both Old and New Testaments, and his later ministry all hold attention.

The truth is that Spurgeon was not a master expositor like, say, his contemporary Alexander McLaren, but he was likely the greatest preacher of the gospel we have ever known. His sermons will always remind us to magnify Jesus and never fail to call on the hearer to receive Christ now. Every preacher in the world needs a dose of Spurgeon and every listener needs a dose of such preaching. Yes, Spurgeon was tethered to the Cross and that’s worth reading in a world unmoored from 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.

Nahum (ZECOT) by Daniel Timmer

It’s great to see this important commentary on the largely unknown book of Nahum finally get released. You will find here a finely constructed commentary that can help you on several levels. To me, it presents the fruits of scholarship at their best allowing the careful Pastor or Bible student to unearth real nuggets.

These earliest releases of the ZECOT are largely to be found in the Minor Prophets. That could be because they are shorter books and commentaries can be completed sooner, but whatever the reason, these same prophets are ideal for the ZECOT format. Don’t be scared away by the terms discourse analysis or structure because here the scholar is plying his trade to get at theme and purpose. In that vein, you can walk away from these pages with tangible help. To scholars themselves, I don’t see how this volume could be ranked anything other than a success.

This work is conservative and finds its place among believing scholarship. On the first page of the introduction we read, “Nahum’s message has rich significance for contemporary audiences in light of its ongoing fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” I knew I was going to like the book at that point, and continuing to look through it, that assessment never wavered. The weaving of the historical context into both the introduction and the commentary was outstanding as well as the theological implications and structure that is drawn out. You might read this and draw some different conclusions, but this commentary will help you not miss what is important to work out your own understanding. This book impresses me with its big-picture conclusions, but the finer points of detail appear well done as well and will provide help with those hard to understand phrases you encounter.

The author seems comfortable in the format of this series. It works as one of the very best single volume commentaries on Nahum. I highly recommend this commentary on a fascinating book of scripture that most of us know so little about.

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.

Wilson by Scott Berg (Pres. Bio. Series)

I wanted to get to Woodrow Wilson for some time on this presidential biography journey. I knew enough to know that he was incredibly influential in the direction that this country has taken in the last 100 years. Surprisingly, very few people are aware of his impactful presidency and know little more about him than any one of other dozens of forgotten presidents. Additionally, Wilson is an enigma to me. He is known for his Christian faith and in some ways is one of the fathers of a movement that has lead our nation far away from God. Let’s just say that I got what I needed from the incredibly well written biography by Scott Berg of Woodrow Wilson.

On the level of biography, this book was outstanding. To be sure, it was written as a biography, not a political treatise. Berg clearly appreciated Wilson but did not hide his flaws. Further, this biographer would probably not even conclude in any way similar to me about Wilson’s political legacy, yet this is one of the better presidential biographies that I’ve read.

Now for Wilson himself. One thing that I’ve tried to do in my presidential biography reviews that maybe no one else does is to make a concerted effort to probe the president’s religious background and corresponding influence upon his life. In the lives of several presidents I have discovered that there is very little religious influence. Wilson, however, was profoundly religious. Christian ideals that were peaking in some circles in his day were highly evident in him. Only in a careful reading of his life story can you put together his complex religious views. Again, that’s why this biography was so helpful to me.

His father was a prominent Presbyterian minister. Wilson was born in Virginia and his dad pastored churches in Georgia and South Carolina in his formative years. The effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and the race relations in the south surrounding those events we’re deeply imbibed into his psyche. Though I hate how the term racist is thrown around in our day to the point that the concept becomes meaningless, Wilson had some racist views. These views led him to see Black people as inferior, yet his religious beliefs at least required him to treat them civilly though he always wanted them kept in their place.

Another factor in the person Woodrow Wilson is his academic career. He is the only president we have had who was truly a political scientist that possessed a PhD. he wrote influential scholarly works on history and politics and had an incredible career Princeton University that culminated in his ascendancy to the presidency of the University. He truly had a national influence even in that capacity. If you dig a little farther as I have done it matters that go beyond the scope of this biography, you will learn that Wilson rejected several concepts of our founding fathers. These rejections are neither subtle nor minor, and successfully birthed the progressive movement in our nation.

Wilson’s religious beliefs are paramount in this new direction. I’ve done much more reading in theology in my life and know that in the later 1800s Christian scholarship took a hard turn to the left because of German scholarly influence. Other similar influences were taking hold of universities and Wilson was similarly influenced. He went on record as saying that our government was founded on the Newtonian viewpoint but modern science has taught us that we should take a Darwinian viewpoint. Therefore, governments are to always be evolving and the needs of the current generation are unique and principles at the Founding cannot be a straight jacket to us.

To be fair to Wilson, he saw no incongruence with his Christianity and these beliefs. In many ways, he lived his life with fidelity to his Christian principles. In fact, he seem to hold tightly to Calvinistic doctrine and perhaps believed in redemption though this biography did not go that far. He kept the Sabbath, attended church faithfully, enjoy good sermons, and in many ways, he lived his life with firm adherence to his Christian principles and ethics. He seemed to love his wife until she died. He had a friendship with a lady that Berg went out of his way to argue that no physical adultery transpired. There is evidence that Wilson expressed regret about that friendship and after his first wife died he seemed to again truly love his second wife.

At times he may have even seen himself as a Christian crusader. Elements of his personality, perhaps, worked against him as well. He was so sure he was right that he almost never compromised or considered other viewpoints. What he thought was always right to his mind and his mission was to convince everyone else and lead them there. He lost the respect of several colleagues both in his university presidency and as president of the United States for this flaw of character. Both of those presidencies ended on a sour note after a period of soaring popularity and accomplishment. It seemed he was always ready to die on the hill of getting 100% of what he wanted.

While I vehemently disagree with both his political and religious philosophies, I must admit that I find him sincere. I would not feel that way about several who followed in his footsteps, but he believed in what he championed.

Back to the biography. Even the chapters that covered his career at Princeton were highly readable. I felt the only weakness of the book was its coverage of World War I. It seem to be viewed from a far, though by the limitations of that age, that is probably how Wilson lived it. The frustrations of the Versailles conference and Wilson’s inflexibility were tragic but well presented. Berg did a great job in eliciting pity for Wilson in the sad story of his life from the failure of getting his treaty passed and his League of Nations off the ground, all followed by an incapacitating stroke. Yes, the nation was misled by his wife and doctor, but fortunately no great harm came from it. Wilson died thinking himself a failure. Were he alive today, he might realize his progressivism with some changes thrives. What FDR gets credit for, could fairly be attributed to Wilson who FDR thought heroic.

Your assessment of Woodrow Wilson probably directly corresponds to your political opinions. Still, we can all enjoy this biography!

Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (ESBT) by Morales

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This title by L. Michael Morales is my first foray into the new Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (ESBT) series. Coming from the same publisher (IVP) as the highly-regarded NSBT series, it takes a different aim. Rather than narrowly focused topics that shine incredible light onto a precise point (NSBT), this series (ESBT) takes steps to re-approach with the same depth greater swathes of theology. Such synthesis is a refreshing onslaught that I applaud.

As for this title itself, I judge it an all-around success. If you read widely in theology, you will see that the Exodus motif crops up often. The average Bible reader never gets past the Exodus in Moses’ day but “exodus” is an exquisite painting of redemption that shows up throughout Scripture and provides a big picture understanding of the overall theme of Scripture. You can imagine, then, just how profitable a study like Morales delivers here can be.

The book is in three parts: the historical Exodus out of Egypt, the prophesied second exodus, and the New Exodus of Jesus. The historical Exodus is presented thoroughly and with great insight. The second part uses the Prophets to highlight the Exile and the exodus from the Captivity with equal skill. As it should be, the book climaxes with Jesus in the ultimate exodus. I gained many points of understanding in this volume but the big picture was always in view.

This book is a great help and encourages us to believe we might be having a real barn burner of a series taking off here!

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.

Joel and Amos (TOTC) by Hadjiev

This latest replacement volume in the time-tested Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series tackles the two important minor prophets of Joel and Amos. While this title follows the format of all the recent replacement volumes in the series, it runs substantially more toward academic concerns than pastoral ones. I fear that this volume might not be as precisely aimed at the target audience of this series as usual.

The author’s previous work on these prophets have been about their composition and redaction. He seems to see the genre as the key to understanding. To be honest, it colors the whole work. Even the introduction dives straight into structural patterns without even an introductory paragraph! Other works in this series address these issues but they do not become as overarching as here. When you think genre is so important and then conclude that these prophets have mixed genres you inevitably will have interpretative issues in several passages. You will notice that throughout the commentary proper as you are introduced to all kinds of good information but sometimes the sum of the parts is substantially less than all the parts you get.

In no way has the author failed to put substantial study behind this work. I don’t want to be overly critical, but his bibliography leans toward much more critical works. I wish more conservative studies and commentaries were better represented.

To be fair, if you were a young scholar trying to wrestle with these particular issues that he stresses you might love this commentary. I even think that if the author were to write a commentary in another series that is aimed primarily at scholars and the issues that currently have captivated the scholarly world, he would probably deliver a highly rated work. On the other hand, I will have to remove a star for pastors and Bible students who would be more interested in what the text means, whom I also envision this series to be produced for. If you are a scholar, you can add the star back.

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.

William Howard Taft by Rosen (Pres. Bio. Series)

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Here’s another quality short biography of a president in the American President Series. I was introduced to Taft in Kearn’s “The Bully Pulpit”, but as was true to real life it seemed that Teddy Roosevelt dominated that book in my opinion. This helpful book make sure that one’s considers Taft on his own terms outside of Roosevelt’s shadow.

Taft was unique among the presidents. So far, he is the only president that I’m aware of who had no interest at all in the presidency. He was a judge and loved the judicial system to the core. Had not his wife so adamantly wanted the presidency, and had not a few fortuitous (at least to his wife’s point of view) events happened, he would not have been a president. Likly he would have been on the Supreme Court years before he ended up being.

He gave his best efforts to the presidency, but if the author here is correct, he often blundered politically because he always made decisions as a judge rather than a politician. Stranger still, it appears he never quite figured out how he blundered. In a more positive vein, he may have loved the Constitution as much as any president. Further, he bowed to it just as should be done better than most in our government ever have. In that way, I totally admired Taft. His love of the law seemed genuine as well and was praiseworthy. History records him quite accurately as a far better Chief Justice of the Supreme Court than a president of the United States.

This book makes Taft’s religious position clear. He was a Unitarian. He held to some Christian beliefs, but denied the divinity of Christ and the miraculous. In his personal life, he seemed to be quite honest.

The book itself here was well written. The author seemed to admire Taft as well. Even went so far as to mitigate the usual criticism of Taft’s girth. As you may know, Taft was by far the heaviest president we ever had.

Add Taft to that list of presidents who is mostly unknown and yet was sincere and mostly an all-around good guy. If we were considering Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, he would likely be top-five, though he is nowhere near that as a president.  And here is the perfect biography to get to know him outside of Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow.

Canon, Covenant and Christology (NSBT) by Matthew Barrett

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At this point, with the multiple titles available in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, you know you’re going to get something that is at once interesting and theologically weighty. I’m sure the editorship of D. A. Carson contributes to that ongoing quality. In any event, this latest title by Matthew Barrett is as outstanding as any in the series. It’s strong stance on the divine inspiration of Scripture makes it run against the grain of most modern literature, but also makes it of even more value.

To be sure, looking at the Scriptures from a Christological perspective was a brilliant idea. This book reaches the heights that the whole idea suggests to those who love the Bible.

Though this work focuses mostly on Jesus in the Gospels and what we see there about Scripture, it’s impact is even greater. The first chapter reminds us of both the overall importance and perfect credibility of divine inspiration. I particularly enjoyed the comments about Sensus Plenior. The next chapter weaves together critical ideas like progressive revelation, word – act-word revelation, and the covenant. You will not have to agree with every idea about the covenant to be profoundly blessed by this chapter.

Next, the book dives more into the details found in the gospels. There’s a chapter on the Matthean witness, one as a case study on the Word made flesh, one about the idea of living by every word from the mouth of God as found in each of these books, one on the Johannine witness, and a final concluding chapter that takes these issues and discusses their importance to the future of doctrinal studies.

I can’t think of a dud in this series, at least among those that I have looked at, but mark this one down as one of the best!

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.

Benjamin Harrison by Charles Calhoun (Presidential Bio. Series)

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Besides the fact that Benjamin Harrison is the grandson of an earlier President Harrison and that he lived in Indiana, I knew so little about the man. It was a joy to get to know him in this work by Charles Calhoun. It’s a shorter biography of a lesser-known president who was a fine man but lived in good times when no major crisis was in play. Don’t expect a riveting read, but the president and his times are what they are and that is at least given here. For what it’s worth, this is my favorite biography of the few I have read in the American President’s Series edited by Arthur Schlesinger.

Like a few other presidents in this stretch of history, Harrison was a Christian, even a true believer you might say. Sometimes he came across as stiff or even austere, but it’s also fair to say he was molded by his Presbyterian upbringing and he faithfully followed it. He was sincere, loved his family, was a man of principle, possessed some ambition like every person to hold the office of president, was a great public speaker, and was real. His life story wouldn’t make a good movie, but it was a consistent story. It’s hard to say for sure because some biographers might conceal a president’s Christianity, but Benjamin Harrison may be one of the most distinctly Christian presidents we have had.

It’s bewildering that Grover Cleveland was returned to office rather than Benjamin Harrison receiving a second term. Nothing against Cleveland, but Harrison seemed like a good president who was generally liked. There were a few issues in that day that mean little to us now that people were highly divided over. Perhaps Harrison’s desire to deal with a few problems crossed a few too many people. He got some elements of his agenda through, though some were overturned later. I don’t think I would go too far out on the limb to say that Harrison took several positions that I could see Lincoln taking. The times were not as desperate and there will never be another Lincoln so I’m only referring to positions, not impact.

Though I appreciate Benjamin Harrison as a president and a person, this short biography of less than 200 pages is enough for me. It helped that Calhoun respected his subject. Some biographies go too far in making their subjects larger than life, but if the subject garnered the respect of the biographer overall it usually makes the book a little better for me (unless it is someone I want to dislike!).

Harrison’s life story was not that dramatic, though his wife died shortly before the election he lost for a second term. It’s hard to imagine how devastating that must have been to him as a man. He did later marry his wife’s niece, though there was nothing scandalous in it. It was sad to see his family divided as his children did not accept his new wife. Let’s just call that a footnote on a good life.

This whole stretch of presidents makes me wonder if a key ingredient to a “great” president is the environment of momentous times to shine in, especially if they don’t naturally have a larger-than-life personality. In its absence, only cut-throat politics remain and there’s little occasion to rise to greatness in that putrid habitat. There are a few presidents between Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt that might have been a “great” president had they a crisis to carry the nation through to prove it. Somehow I think Benjamin Harrison might fall in that category.

James (KEL) by Spencer

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This latest entry in the Kregel Exegetical Library by Aida Besancon Spencer is another solid entry in the series. I had heard before the book came across my desk that perhaps the theme presented would be focusing on the poor. That seemed like a stretch for sure, but when you actually dig into the book something much more helpful emerges. The author finds four themes in the book of James: how to deal with trials, how to be wise or have wisdom, how to view riches, and what she calls “a fourth unifying thing – becoming doers of the word and not hears only”. She is sensitive to the poor throughout, but that was a simplistic synopsis of this work. The book of James is clearly much about the four themes that she outlines and that sheds light as we read.

The introduction wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. On authorship she holds the conservative position that this James is the Lord’s brother. She develops grammatical points and word choices that help explain the overall message. She examines early church traditions about the letter James. She goes through the history in a sufficient manner. One of her best contributions is how she takes scholarly criticism against James as the Lord’s brother and knocks them down one by one in vivid fashion. In the section on structure, she explains those themes I mentioned above and how they lead to an understanding of James.

The commentary section is truly helpful. Words are carefully described. There is no doubt that one of this scholar’s strengths is grammatical explanation. The exposition is solid and homiletical hints are given. A word I might use to describe this book is “fresh”. Of course it addresses what other commentaries look at in James, but it gets beyond the tired repeating that is starting to show up in some works. When a scholar seems to be in love with the book they write about, the commentary is always better. That is the case here.

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.