Preaching As Reminding by Jeffrey Arthurs (Books on Ministry #24)

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We’ve been blessed with many fine books on preaching. There are classics from previous centuries as well as winners from our day. I should know as I’ve been blessed by many of them. On the other hand, because it’s such a popular subject the inundation of titles has led to a few dull books that say nothing new at all. Fortunately, Jeffrey Arthurs stepped into a niche that I don’t feel other authors have properly addressed and has given us something beautiful to help us as we preach God’s word. Since we live in an age of rampant forgetfulness, his work is extremely timely as well.

The help he gives has been meticulously studied out and thoughtfully presented. He makes a powerful case for his premise that preaching is an act of helping people remember before he jumps into practical guidance for preaching itself. He traces both remembering and forgetting through Scripture and proves its prominence. He even handles the science behind memory adeptly though I imagine that is not his normal field of work as a professor of preaching and communication. You will likely so agree with his reasoning that you will find him a trusted guide by the time he gets around to telling you how to improve your preaching.

There is no letdown at all when he transitions to practical help in preaching. Beginning in chapter 4 when he discusses style as a tool for stirring memory, he explains how style is a tool of persuasion and how each preacher needs his own style as well as to improve that style. He gives wonderful suggestions to that end. Next, he reminds us that story or narrative is especially effective in helping people remember. His chapter on delivery is a great reminder for us all as he digs into the details including the important nonverbal signals that we send.

If I were assembling a list of the key books on preaching, I would have to include this perceptive volume. I’m thoroughly impressed with what Mr. Arthurs had to say between these covers.

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.

Ephesians (TNTC) by Bock

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This latest release in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series has snagged yet another top-flight scholar. Darrell Bock tackles Ephesians here after his major works on Luke, Acts, and the historical Jesus. In case you weren’t aware, his two-volume commentary on Luke in the BECNT series is often rated as the best exegetical work we have on that book. Though he branches away from his normal work in this effort to grapple with a Pauline epistle, his credentials are clearly up to the mark. TNTC targets an audience below those major exegetical works though its scholarship is always top-notch. It seems to me that Mr. Bock understood the aims of the TNTC series and brought us an excellent work within those parameters.

After a select bibliography of a few pages, Bock jumps into his introduction. He begins with explaining the importance of Ephesians which many find to be a mountain peak within Pauline writings. He goes on to explain destinations of the letter with plenty of background on the city of Ephesus before he gets into several issues involving authorship. When he enters a more formal discussion of authorship and date, he explains vocabulary and style and theological issues within Ephesians. He doesn’t find enough evidence to deny Paul authorship.

After a brief outline, Bock enters the commentary section that makes up the bulk of the book. For each passage, he gives context, before entering into commentary itself for each verse. There’s also a paragraph or so on the theology of the passage. In my estimation, he makes the reader fully aware of the issues and what the passage is trying to say to us. For example, I thought he handled the Household Code with skill and grace. He stayed true to the text concluding a conservative position yet wrote in a way that would not be overly antagonistic to someone of a different persuasion. The quality of commentary remained throughout.

Pastors, teachers, and Bible students will appreciate the fine help this commentary provides. I 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.

All Things New (NSBT) by Brian J. Tabb

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If you are like me, you know what to expect when you pick up the latest entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT): perceptive theology, careful scholarship, in-depth coverage that even exceeds many commentary introductions, and a work that goes beyond anything you already have on your shelves. That consistency is as steady as the unchanging gray covers that adorn every volume. On the one hand, some credit must go to D. A. Carson for his editorial work. On the other hand, somebody must have done their homework in choosing authors as well.

This latest release by Brian J. A Tabb looks at the book of Revelation “as canonical capstone”. As heady as that sounds, the author knew how to make a strong case for his thesis. As I read, I thought this author is great at digging. He brought out so many things that are easily missed and made so many connections between Scriptures that we rarely see. Mr. Tabb takes an “eclectic” approach to Revelation. In fact, he much reminds me of Gregory Beale. (He cited 19 of Beale’s works in his bibliography!) Still, it’s clear he did his own work and made his own conclusions. Further, as one who is a futurist rather than following his eclectic approach, I felt he was gracious throughout. Even better, the type of information he mined for us can be taken and shone back into Revelation no matter which approach to prophecy you take.

His introduction was outstanding and contained all kinds of wonderful information. I did much underlining there. From there he divides his book into four parts: the triune God, worship and witness, judgment, salvation and restoration, and the word of God. Part one contained, you guessed it, three chapters on the Sovereign on the throne, Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb, and the Spirit of prophecy. These were some of my favorite chapters in the book with particular success in the chapter on the Holy Spirit. Part two looked at followers of the Lamb and discussed things like a priestly kingdom and a new Israel while another chapter talked about the battle for universal worship. I felt that viewpoint was well worth digging into. Part three considered the wrath of the Lamb and made several insights on things like the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of wrath, as well as a new Exodus. There was a chapter on Babylon the harlot and Jerusalem the bride as well as another on all things new. Part four only had one chapter on the Word of God but it was well done and followed by a conclusion for the book. There’s a lengthy bibliography for those wanting further study.

This book even contains some charts that summarize important information for the reader and that I was blessed by. This book is fully up to the high standards set by the NSBT series and I 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.

A Pastoral Rule for Today by Burgess, Andrews, and Small

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This book is designed to bring pastors back to our core work. A trio of authors, John Burgess, Jerry Andrews, and Joseph Small, take seven historical characters to remind us of what ministry is supposed to look like. This work was an initiative by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and certainly has the flavor of that body throughout the book. Since I’m not a Presbyterian, I found myself at odds with the authors on some of their conclusions. On a more important note, however, I did pause to reflect on some areas of my own ministry that I feel was truly profitable for me. The biographical section on the historical theological figures was enjoyable as were several of the ultimate admonitions for those in ministry. Sometimes the path by which they reached those admonitions was something not particularly scriptural to my mind. Further, the authors seem to have an overblown reverence for the monastic lifestyle. While taking the time to truly meditate on God’s word and remove yourself from the hustle of life is of the utmost value, monastic life has not led to a superior spirituality in many documented cases. It is, then, with a caveat that I recommend this book.

The historical figures used to illustrate what the authors call pastoral “rule” were Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, John Calvin (no surprise), John Wesley (a little bit of a surprise), John Henry Newman (a questionable choice for some of us), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (one of the best chapters in the book). The introductory chapter on why pastors need a “rule” was intriguing. Augustine was used to describe that monastic life while Benedict was used to illustrate obedience “in the context of community”. That obedience as well as what was shown in the life of John Calvin turned out to be the most overtly Presbyterian chapters in the book as it pushed a church hierarchy that fits well with their system. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think of its lack of scriptural support. Gregory the Great was mined to show the importance of disciplined prayer. The chapter on John Wesley was extremely timely for our generation as it showed the importance of choosing your words carefully. While I’m not a big fan of John Henry Newman, the principal shared about the need for serious study of the Scripture was well taken. The chapter on Bonhoeffer, who wrote Life Together, had the best insights on community in the book. The concluding chapter on making a contemporary pastoral rule had many helpful insights.

As I said above, this book did get me to thinking about some things that needed addressing in my own life and ministry. You can add a star if you are Presbyterian or hold to the author’s overall views about ministry. Worth pondering!

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.

Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah by Kaiser and Rata

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I’ve been using the works of Walter Kaiser for several years, so when I saw that he was coming out with a new work on Jeremiah I was instantly intrigued. Now that I’ve had a chance to get into this commentary, I can confess that it did live up to my high expectations. As something of a commentary junkie, I’ve had the privilege to review all types of commentaries all the way up to the massive tomes that cover every conceivable issue. As much as I enjoy using all of them, if I were forced to choose, this type of commentary prepared by Kaiser and his colleague Tiberius Rata is the most ideal for pastors. It has more depth than the TOTC series and is pretty close to the NAC in its scope. If you can imagine that style of commentary, then you will know how to gauge this work that is a model volume of its class. Further, in these days of prolific commentary production, I would argue that Jeremiah would be one of the books most in need of a new commentary of this type.

The introduction is not massive, but it gets to the heart of what most Bible students and pastors are looking for. There is background on Jeremiah and his times. There’s a brief mention of compositional issues because the scholarly world is so enamored with them. You will find conservative conclusions here. There is a discussion of Jeremiah’s relation to Deuteronomy as well as the text of Jeremiah. The section on theological emphases could probably have been expanded but was accurate as far as it went. The authors give us an extensive outline of Jeremiah along with a brief bibliography at the end of the introduction. (There’s a lengthy bibliography at the end of the book).

As for me, I enjoyed the commentary itself even more than the introduction. What you received in every passage was clear guidance on understanding the text. If scholarly side issues were mentioned, they never dominated the discussion. I don’t see how this book could not help someone wrestling with the challenging book of Jeremiah. Let’s label this book a necessity!

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 Old Testament in 7 Sentences by Christopher Wright

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When Christopher J.H. Wright produces a book, it will be worth checking out. Every book of his that I’ve read, whether it be a commentary or theological work, is simply above average. I think the reason he so often succeeds is that his scholarship on any issue involving the Old Testament can stand up against any other scholar’s work, yet his works possess a spirituality that few of them can match. Every time I read one of his works, I’m reminded of how much he possesses the flavor of his mentor, John Stott. Not that he just repackages Stott’s work, but he has that special gift to blend scholarship and spirituality that is too often lacking these days.

This work is a little different. Not in quality, but in what he usually writes. IVP has started publishing these books (I enjoyed the one on philosophy) and I assume a series may follow. As you can imagine, these books are more of a survey. In this case, we are getting our overview from seven key texts of the Old Testament. Both the number seven and the choice of texts are arbitrary, or at least debatable, but Mr. Wright has chosen as well as anyone could. What he did accomplish, though, is using these texts to cover more ground. For example, when he chose, “the Lord is my shepherd”, he covered what all the Psalms and wisdom writings are attempting to accomplish in the Old Testament. In other words, he pulled off this difficult writing assignment.

His choices were creation with Genesis 1:1, Abraham with Genesis 12:3, Exodus with Exodus 20:2, David with I Samuel 13:14, the prophets with Micah 6:8, gospel with Isaiah 52:7, and Psalms and wisdom with Psalm 23:1. As I said above, he covers much more ground than those texts suggest. To my mind, he chose these texts to unlock the larger narrative of each section of Scripture.

This book would be ideal for a Bible student’s first pass at surveying the Old Testament. Pastors might not need this book as much as others he has written but would probably be happy to put it in the hands of their people. Still, even the most seasoned Christian will find nuggets along the way in this winning volume.

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 Message of Discipleship (BST) by Peter Morden

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This latest release in the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series explains the topic of discipleship by careful exposition of key texts. If you are familiar with this series, you know that that is how these volumes on Bible themes work. Peter Morden appears quite comfortable in this format. Personally, I wondered what would be the best texts to consider, and I found that I pretty much agreed with what Mr. Morton has chosen. Partially because of the subject matter, I found this volume to be one of the most devotional that I have read in the series. Mr. Morton comes across as equally adept at handling the devotional aspect. The only tiny criticism that I could find in the volume is that he, perhaps, quoted others a bit much. To be fair, I didn’t actually verify that with the other volumes, but that was my impression as I read. At least, he chose wonderful works to quote, and some you don’t normally see quoted in one of these types of works too.

The 17 chapters, or expositions, are divided into three parts: the foundations of discipleship with four chapters, the resources for discipleship with four chapters, and the practice of discipleship with nine chapters. The chapters on the foundations of discipleship look closely at the ministry of Christ and the call he put on us. The chapter on Isaiah 6 was an excellent addition here as well. In part two there were fine chapters on prayer and the church regarding discipleship, but my personal favorite was a gem of a chapter on discipleship and the Holy Spirit. Part three dug deep into our personal walk with Christ and included the resurrection, holiness, a needy world, daily work, finance, living in dark times, the key of love, making disciples in our world, and a concluding exposition on finishing the course.

Though this book has quality scholarship, I would deem it to be helpful to any Christian reader. The writing is accessible and the message is warm. Mr. Morton is a pastor in addition to being a scholar and it shows throughout.

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.

Paul and Union with Christ by Constantine Campbell

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Wow! I knew this book was highly regarded on the influential subject of union with Christ. I’ve seen Constantine Campbell’s name show up all over this issue as well. What surprised me, though, is this book’s laudable design. I cannot think of a more ideal way to examine Paul’s relationship to the theological subject of union with Christ than to simply exegete every passage in the epistles of Paul that touch on the subject. Along the way, Campbell tackles “in Christ”, “through Christ”, “into Christ”, as well as every other conceivable expression on the subject. In addition to exegeting each passage, he outlines the possible uses of the word and categorizes each passage as to its likely usage.

Before all those passages are exegeted, there are two chapters that cover introductory matters and a history of the issue seen through the eyes of the major theological players that have most contributed to how the debate has gone. There’s a lot to evaluate there as Campbell does a fine job explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each theologian. After chapters 3 through 7 exegete all those passages, there are several chapters of theological study. More terms are defined and exegeted as well as major concepts of participation like the body of Christ, Temple and building, marriage, dying and rising with Christ, and the new Adam being explained. There’s one chapter that well explains Trinitarian issues and another that tackles the often-debated relationship of union with Christ and justification. The twelveth chapter defines union with Christ with all the information we gained throughout the book and there’s one final chapter on implications and future directions that will really appeal to scholars. Fortunately, there’s a scriptural index that will make this volume as wonderful a reference as it is a theological read.

To my mind, this volume is without peer for the needs of Bible students and pastors on union with Christ. Without a doubt, it will be my go-to volume.

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.

Old Testament Ethics by John Goldingay

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Mark this down is an interesting addition on a subject that runs as wide a gamut as almost any in biblical studies: Old Testament ethics. Enter John Goldingay who has written both major exegetical commentaries and substantial works on Old Testament theology into the Old Testament ethical debates. To be honest, sometimes he’s just a little too far left for me. On the other hand, if we were to tabulate the top scholars on the Old Testament today, he would make most people’s list. I actually enjoyed this volume more than some others of his that I have reviewed.

He divides the book into five parts with the first 3 being subject oriented. He categorizes those subjects as qualities, aspects of life, and relationships. Part four looks at eight of the most important texts in the Old Testament, or at least texts where ethics would be most discussed. Part five contains seven chapters on various people in the Old Testament who had pronounced ethical dilemmas. In my view, this was an excellent framework to approach ethics in the Old Testament.

I found some of the subjects enlightening while others were provocative. If you’ve read him before, that comes as no surprise. In a few cases, he shocked me by taking a more conservative viewpoint than I anticipated. In a few other cases, I found him a little hesitant. In other words, I sensed he might be afraid he would offend someone a little left of him. That’s just my impression. Impressions are a dime a dozen so you can analyze that for yourself.

In any event, there is some good material here to help you wrestle with these highly-debated subjects. In a book of this nature, it’s not if a writer agrees with you on every point, but if he or she is able to stretch you to think about more sides of the issue than you otherwise would have. On that score, Mr. Goldingay has wonderfully succeeded.

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.

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 2A, John

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This commentary on the Gospel of John is my first foray into the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Often sold as a set, individual volumes like this one can be picked up. This commentary on John is new within the series and is written by Craig Keener. The amount of writing that this world-class scholar has done is almost beyond belief. I’ve personally used his massive two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John to advantage, but this new commentary is a completely different resource.

You will find the background and commentary in this book to the point. Unlike others of this style that I have seen, however, things most likely to need illumination are exactly what received comment. You might not agree with every comment made, but you won’t find any of the pointless fluff that is often passed off as a viable resource for students. In addition to Keener’s writing, some fine designers exquisitely integrated visuals throughout the book. Sometimes they included a helpful chart, a sidebar on a specific item, a map, a picture, or an illustration. Again, the value of the book is in its wise selections both in comment and visuals. What you end up with is a resource that is as attractive as it is helpful.

Pastors might enjoy this commentary on the fly but would need other more-detailed resources to go with it. Still, this commentary could be an incredible asset to Sunday school teachers, Bible study group leaders, or people attempting to do serious Bible study at home. It’s not common for books aimed at these users to be so well underpinned with quality scholarship. For that reason, this book is a clear 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.