Exodus (Interpretation) by Terence Fretheim

book exodus i

This book is one of the very best in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series. This series is one from the critical camp that is aimed at preachers and teachers and is best known for its theological help. Terence Fretheim has received several accolades for this work on Exodus.

The Introduction begins with the big picture of what we have in Exodus. He describes Exodus is both a Pre-Christian and a Christian book. He gives great insights on the correlation between Exodus and the New Testament. Further, he comments on how we might honor both in the interpretive process. Next, he tackles the critical perspective of Exodus. While I could never agree with most of his conclusions, he still noted things worthy of tracing like the key transitional sections. There is even less I could agree with him in terms of history – he’s much too skeptical there.

The Introduction turns itself back toward great helpfulness when it offers a discussion on the theological task that we will find in Exodus. His discussion of the leading theological issues is eye-opening even if you couldn’t agree with every conclusion he makes. Still, this section alone makes the Introduction worth reading.

The commentary itself would fall into the mid-length category, but is especially theologically perceptive. For example, I thought he made some brilliant comments about the interaction between Pharaoh’s own hardening of heart and the Lord’s hardening of his heart. Taken as a stimulus for ideas rather than a straightforward guide, the commentary section will be beneficial to you.

If you are a conservative Bible student like me, I would suggest that you will still enjoy this book on many levels although you will find some paragraphs completely subversive. Not only is this commentary well written, but the author pulls out thoughts that others miss. You will be the richer for interacting with 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.

40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline by Kimble

book 40 questions

This book provides a unique format to get you thinking deeply about church membership and discipline. You can read through the table of contents for a specific question on the subject, or you can as I did, read through the entire book and be blessed to think through the issues from a variety of vantage points. Mr. Kimble has provided a nice resource here. Though there are many new titles in the area of church membership and discipline published recently, this book carves out its own niche and will be appreciated by readers everywhere.

The author divides the questions into four main parts. Part One defines terms and gets us thinking in the right direction for the questions that follow. Part Two contains general questions about church membership. These questions cover theology, ministry, and practicality. I can’t think of a question he left out, nor of a question he answered carelessly.

Part Three contains general questions about church discipline. If anything, the subject of church discipline is even more bewildering to most Christians than that of the little-discussed subject of church membership. The author again divides the questions into theological, ministry, and practical questions. Part Four asked two concluding questions about the significance of these two interrelated subjects.

As a Baptist pastor, I find this volume biblical, well-written, and helpful. Its design makes it the ideal volume to have on the shelf to pull down when a question comes to mind. Even if you squabble about some conclusion the author makes, he writes succinctly and carefully lays the issue out for you. The reader cannot help but be blessed by this volume. 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.

The Most Thoughtful Article I’ve Seen On North Korea

This article is important because it illustrates the one thing we are overlooking. At least I was overlooking it. Maybe you were not.

Total war is different than limited war. Let’s just bomb them like we did Iraq won’t bring the happy results it did then. We’ve fought limited wars for so long you’d have to go back to the WWII generation to have any idea.

Whatever we do, and likely there is no perfect option, we must keep this in mind.

Without further ado, here the timely article we all need to consider:

Into the Abyss-the Scenario for the Next Korean War 

The Real Facts About the Latest Generation!

blog phoneI’ve heard it in bits and pieces and had already decided that the smartphone was the defining factor of this generation approaching adulthood. Now I came across a substantive article that has hard data behind what it says. The point is not to bash this generation. How could we? Wouldn’t it be more a reflection of we who are as the generation raising them?

The truth is that every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. That translates to the latest generation being better in a few categories, but its problems are of concern and worthy of our attention.

This generation lives with its parents knowing where they are far more than any generation alive today. For that reason, you could say that they are physically safer. They tend to be less motivated to drive and have fewer wrecks. Their average age of the first sexual encounter is actually older than the last several generations – that’s certainly a plus. If you dig through the data in the article, you will see more of this type of positive information.

Strangely enough, some of their biggest problems springs from the same areas. This is the least-interested-in-independence generation we’ve seen. If they have a nice bedroom, in which to lay and be on their smart phones, they are satisfied. The article mentioned several of them have an indention in their bed from lying there on the phone so much. Many of them are not really interested in driving. Does that surprise you as much as me? Many of them are developmentally at least two years behind.

While the rate of teen homicide is down (that’s a plus!), the rate of teen suicide is far higher. Quite frankly, many of them are not happy. The article explained how the ones who are on their smart phones over the average rank much higher on the chart of unhappiness and suicidal feelings.

The article, which was not in a Christian publication, mentioned sports, other activities, and less social media as having great improvement in the data on being happy and not feeling suicidal. Although the article wasn’t Christian in any way, I couldn’t help but notice that those young people very active in what the author called “religious activities”, fared much better as well. I suppose the data will always bear out that the parents who forget God in their home will reap a whirlwind in their children.

Here’s the great article that you will want to ingest slowly: Has Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

There’s so much more in this article. Read it for yourself. We parents need some deep reflection about whether our homes are just going to be like the average of the world today, or are we going to swim upstream to go after different results. May the Lord help us all in the choppy waters that we Christian parents now navigate.

The Reformation in England (2-volume set) by D’Aubigne

book ref eng

What a classic! I’ve heard of this jewel for years and am excited to see this reprinting by Banner of Truth. D’Aubigne is an able historian who writes with spiritual fire. These volumes lived up to the hype I heard and I was not disappointed!

Volume 1 was made up of 4 books and took us all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity in England (2nd to 6th Centuries). I enjoyed the fine Introduction to the writer and this work. When we jump into the text, we hear of St. Patrick, the early infiltration of Rome, Wycliffe, the Lollards, and the very origin of the Reformation in England. There’s amazing, inspiring tales of martyrs for Christ. The latter part tells how the divorce of Henry and all that led up to it had an amazing impact on the Reformation. He won’t allow you to believe that the Reformation is a secular event, though, but rather the Lord working through amazing means.

Volume 2 was made up of 3 books and takes us on through Henry VIII’s death as the author sees that as the ultimate birth of the Reformation in England. Henry was a despicable, unstable man! His treatment of his wives was heinous. Still, it’s clear that the Lord works behind the scenes to free England from its religious darkness through these political events. It’s incredible how much blood was spilled along the way. If you’re a Baptist like me, you will love the respectful way he mentions the Anabaptists.

This 2-volume set is well-written, captivating, and illuminating. The author clearly knows what he’s talking about and knows how to tell us. He reads much better than some of the usual heavy reading of that time period. As with other Banner titles, the set is beautiful and bound to last. Frankly, I loved it. It’s THE title for those with an English background for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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 Quest by Leen Ritmeyer

book quest temple

This book is without doubt the preeminent resource on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem available today. Whether you desire the historical or archaeological perspective, this is your book. This book’s success likely springs from the fact that no one but Leen Ritmeyer could have authored it. Both from his long years of working in this field and his work as the architect of the Temple Mount excavations, as well as his other work on the Temple Mount itself, demands that Ritmeyer produce this extraordinary resource.

This book is filled with pictures from the earliest scholarly explorations of Jerusalem, other helpful pictures on a range of issues, extraordinary reconstructions, and the wonderful, accurate Carta maps. It’s hard for me to effectively portray the visual treat the reader will have in this book. The text is the equal of the visuals and gives the most up-to-date, scholarly, detailed information that can be found on the Temple Mount.

The book begins covering the Herodian Temple Mount walls. Since archaeology digs down into older time periods, chapter 2 provides a lengthy chapter on the Temple of Nehemiah’s day. Some of the reconstruction models in that chapter were extraordinary. After a chapter on the Hasmonean Temple Mount, he turns to the interesting subject of the underground cisterns of the Temple Mount. I’ve never seen better on that subject. Chapter 5 examines how Herod extended the Temple Mount. That includes things like how he had to expand the drainage system and some of the gates he added. Chapter 6 nails down the location of the Temple on the Mount and has some great pictures of the inside of the Dome of the Rock.

In chapter 7 we find a reconstruction of the First Temple. Again, the graphics and reconstructions were eye-catching and instructive. In chapter 8 we follow that up with reconstructing the Second Temple and all the history behind it. The book goes full-circle with chapters on reconstructing the Herodian Temple Mount as well as Herod’s Temple itself.

Readers are going to love this book. I can’t imagine anyone finding something they thought was left out on the subject of the Temple Mount and its history. Helpful, beautiful, and thorough – what more could you ask for? I give this book the highest possible recommendation.

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.

Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

book introverts

What a wonderful book! As an introvert myself, I’m thrilled to report that introvert Adam McHugh has looked into who we are and explained it perfectly. Only a true introvert could have explained the feelings and perceptions of an introvert with such accuracy. Not only does this book contain what introverts have been waiting a long time to hear, but it’s also a perfect primer for extroverts to understand all of us introverts that they have always been clueless about. As the title suggests, McHugh brings this important discussion into churches. He seeks to guide introverts in “finding our place in an extroverted culture”.

I was hooked by the preface. When he explained that we would have to dig in this subject to the point that it might appear that he was “feeding the impression that we are misanthropic weirdos”, I knew I wanted to hear what he had to say.

He makes a case in the introduction that introverts can thrive in the church. As he will do throughout the entire book, that does not mean that we introverts must deny who we are or act like something we are not. He makes a clear case that local churches today are all geared toward the extroverts. He explains how our culture values extraversion over introversion, though without compelling proof that it should be so. As we said before, he explained so beautifully what life inside an introvert’s head is really like. He clarified how we feel at some social gatherings or settings. He encourages us to quit feeling like we are weird or of less value, and to seek healing from the bad misconceptions that we have lived with.

He explained what introverted spirituality is, and though it’s easily distinguished from the extroverted type, it still has great depth. He explained how we are in community and relationships. We don’t live without community or relationships, but we are different.

Finally the book turns to the subject of leadership and introverts. There is an unsubstantiated belief that only extroverts make good leaders. Fact and history both prove this to be untrue. Some extroverts succeed by being charismatic, dominant, gregarious, or even a superstar, and can even operate a cult of personality. In some cases, the company doesn’t glean anything from the tightness of the followers of these extroverted leaders. In other words, it’s only been about them. He gives wonderful thoughts about how we might lead without yielding the essence of who we are as introverts. He is very practical in how we might be a better leader, as well as thoughts about a subject that most all introverts find difficult: evangelism. He concludes with encouraging us to make sure introverts have a place in our churches.

This book spoke to me. I’m convinced that every Christian introvert ought to read it. Further, it would be quite wonderful if we could talk a few extroverts into reading it with us.

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.

That Rough Patch Called Transitioning To Adulthood

blog adulthood

I’ve been reminded of late just how tough that period in life where you have to figure out what you’re going to do when you grow up really is. I can remember that in my own life, but it seems so long ago that the memories are in black and white. My oldest, Briley, is at that place where she has to decide, and her brother, Caleb, the meticulous planner, is engulfed in it as well. Sadly, if anything, it’s harder to figure out these days.

An article in National Review by Oren Cass entitled “Teaching to the Rest” highlighted just how tough it is. According to the author, the 3 million recent high school graduates can be divided into approximately five equal categories. The first group didn’t even make it to high school graduation (remember one fifth of 3 million is 600,000!). The second group will pursue no further education. The third group will enroll in college but never graduate. The fourth group will graduate college, but will never work in the field they got their degree in. Only the final group will go through college and work in a field that they studied for. I don’t know about you, but those statistics shock me.

As you can imagine in that particular magazine, the article goes on talking about the political changes that need to be made in our educational system. The author’s ideas were wonderful, but excuse my cynicism in thinking that either the government or teachers unions would give his thoughts the time of day.

He alludes to, and you’ve probably heard it from other quarters as well, that there is a dearth of young people going into trades. In other words, a college education may not be the best case scenario as was universally believed when I graduated high school. Besides the fact that many public universities have lost their way and are so out of the mainstream that they actually steer young people away from success, there’s the issue that you might be financially worse off to go to college. On the one hand, many college students today embark upon their career with a disastrous financial situation because of college debt. A trade could be learned for a fraction of the cost with a similar starting salary but without the oppressive debt.

It grieves me to say this, but even for my children who want to follow my steps into the ministry, the possibility of making a full-time income from it over the course of their whole working lives seems unlikely. The rapid decline of Christianity in our day means that all in ministry may be tentmakers like Paul in the years ahead. That likelihood means even young people considering ministry will need a trade or profession to fall back on. I haven’t lost faith that the Lord can provide what’s needed for our calling, just that He he may actually start calling more to a bi-vocational ministry.

I’m totally sympathetic to my children. The gravity with which they view their choices for the future is commensurate to current events. I never want to be guilty of calling my children to the ministry or any other profession. My wife, Alicia, has already been warning our children of the need to have a trade for some time.

I’ve decided this rough patch of transition into adulthood is tough for parents too. You’d like to make it easier for them. You’d like for them to be able to pick it without reservations and feel perfectly at peace with their choices, but the reality is they go through all kinds of options. You have to balance telling them the ideas they have that probably will not work out well to not being overly controlling and telling them what they have to do with their lives. It’s tough. It’s times like this that I’m so happy that my children know the same Lord that I do. I’ve had times of not knowing the way and being afraid, and had to learn to wait on the Lord.

I guess this post is not really instructional. I really can’t see that I gave any good advice. But I guess I’m just putting in writing a plea to my children to trust the Lord with an acknowledgment that Daddy loves you and has confidence in you. I’m tempted to close my eyes and hide until the Lord grows your faith and leads you through this, but by faith let’s just go through it together.

Acts (IVPNT) by William Larkin

book acts ivp

This book is one of the longer and higher-rated commentaries in the IVP New Testament Commentary (IVPNT) series. Mr. Larkin balanced scholarly concerns and pastoral needs quite handsomely. Pastors will further appreciate this volume because of how well he draws out missionary concerns. He never strays far from seeing salvation and its proclamation as the heart of the Book of Acts.

He approaches his Introduction from a different angle than many such volumes. He begins by getting us thinking about what’s at stake in preaching Acts today and drawing out its contemporary relevance. To grasp Mr. Larkin’s approach in stating that Acts is all about world evangelization, he says, “whether lulled into complacency by universalism or into indifference by viewing missions as the specialty of certain persons, the church will be awakened by Acts, which declares that being on the move with the gospel witness across cultural thresholds is the church’s number-one job.”

From there Mr. Larkin goes into bridging the cultural gap between the first century to our day and giving some insight into the way Acts ought to be applied today. Next, he discusses historical setting, which includes author, date, and audience. His conclusions are conservative. He treads quickly through scholarly opinions about the purpose of the Book of Acts and addresses historical reliability along the way. The highlight of the Introduction is his explanation of the theology of the book. I appreciated the way he highlighted the overwhelming importance of the Resurrection of Christ and how he further drew out salvation and witnessing.

The commentary section was well done, and as we said before, longer than several others the volumes in the series. In fact, the book itself runs to over 400 pages. Every passage that I reviewed in this book provided helpful commentary. Most importantly, he carried the aforementioned theme of world evangelization throughout the bulk of the commentary. That is, of course, in line with what the Book of Acts is doing.

If you are looking for a mid length commentary with real depth, yet without getting carried away in scholarly concerns, you ought to check this book out. 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.

Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (NAC) by Melick

book phil col

Richard Melick. Jr. delivered this helpful commentary in the New American Commentary (NAC) series. It’s actually a three-for-one deal in the already economical series, this time on two of the more beloved of Paul’s epistles as well as his lesser-known personal letter to Philemon. At 375 pages, Melick strikes the perfect balance between helpfulness and succinctness.

Instead of writing one Introduction for all three letters, he writes standalone Introductions before the commentary of all three letters. I was impressed with the depth and quality of each of the Introductions provided here. In each case, he again struck the perfect balance between providing scholarly information and accessible understanding for pastors and teachers.

In his Introduction to Philippians, he first describes the background of the city and its people. Next, in a section entitled “the founding of the church”, he describes the level of Christianity to be found there. When he looked at authorship, he had little patience for the unfounded attacks on Pauline authorship. He feels the greater question is one of integrity of the text, and in his analysis, he explains the unity of the text. He reaches conservative conclusions on origin and date. In that same conservative vein, he outlines Paul’s opponents at Philippi and explains the theological structure of the epistle. His commentary on Philippians itself is thoughtful and well done.

His Introduction to Colossians follows the same pattern. He again reaches conservative conclusions and in section 7, “the problem at Colosse”, he breaks down the unique features of the book of Colossians. He again ends with the theological structure of the epistle and an outline of the book. He delivers commentary on Colossians at the same high level he did on Philippians.

Finally, he tackles Philemon in 35 pages. I have single exegetical commentary volumes on Philemon in my library, but this is all most will need. Again, he is the model of helpfulness while being compendious. He outlines the Introduction in the same winning way that worked in the other two epistles. As you can imagine, setting the stage and explaining slavery is especially important in this little epistle. The commentary itself is again very fine.

I’m surprised this volume isn’t more well-known and highly rated, so I guess we could label it a hidden jewel. Pastors, teachers, and Bible students will love this volume 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.