KJV Illustrated Bible Handbook–An Awesome Visual Reference!

As a pastor, I have discovered a book here I would love to see all church members have to use in their personal Bible study. There is a chapter on every book of the Bible to give an overview of what you will be reading. Those who are visual learners will find a feast in this attractive volume. This hardback volume by B & H Publishing meets a real need!

I congratulate the publishers for having the insight to see what some might call a niche market–KJV users. In light of World Magazine’s recent article stating the KJV was the preferred translation for 55% of Americans (April 5, 2014, pg. 68), perhaps it is more than a niche market after all. In any event, kudos to B & H Publishing.

This book not only gives a good overview, but it suggests lines of thought for Bible students. For example, a key text is given for each book. You might not agree with their choice, but that is a great thought process in studying a book of the Bible. Key terms are vital and those are discussed briefly too. Things like purpose and occasion give real insight and the section called “First Pass” launches us into our reading. The section on finding Christ in the book keeps us Gospel focused too. I enjoyed the smaller books of the Bible (we can need extra help on some of the smaller books like those in the Minor Prophets) getting equal time.

The section on reliability will be the least useful to many, but they usually come down on the conservative point of view. You might find a point to disagree on here and there, but overall the volume is really solid. There was a statement giving credence to “Q” in the formation of the Synoptic Gospels, but such statements are rare.

The maps in the book are taken from Holman maps and they are outstanding and sharp. The selection of photos and charts add real value as well. The claim “a complete visual reference” by the publishers is not an exaggeration.

As a bonus, you get two fascinating articles on the KJV. There are interesting ones on the Canon of the OT and the NT respectively as well. Each article is written on a level even beginning Bible students can grasp, but with real detail too.

My best recommendation for this book: I am a pastor and I am going to encourage the dear folks I pastor to get this volume and enrich their own personal Bible study.

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.


When Did You Die? –A Book Review with Observations

Here is a volume for when you seriously want to consider your spiritual life. The careless or unconcerned will not be able to stand reading it. As you might imagine by the title, the book addresses the concept of “dying to self.”

Crown Publications has brought this fine volume back in print. Its claim to fame is that it is the book that changed Lee Roberson’s life. As one of the prominent leaders of the Twentieth Century for Independent Baptists, many are fascinated by this practically lost volume. I actually had one the old copies that was more like a pamphlet. I read it several years ago, but was challenged in reading it again. In this lovely reprint, you actually get a bonus volume entitled “How To Die Daily”, also by B. McCall Barbour. An introductory chapter on Lee Roberson along with the volume’s appealing look makes this a fine addition to any library.

There has been some debate in recent years over the theology of these type writings. Particularly the phrase “let go and let God” has been under scrutiny (The phrase was mentioned in this volume). Some have thought to say “let God” implies giving God permission! But in this context it is about what you and I are going to do, not what the Lord may do.

Half way through my reading of this book, I did an online search and came across R. C. Sproul’s website that had an article on this phrase and theology. He raised a few points worthy of consideration. Some taught it as the “second blessing” and that is actually more than the Bible teaches. To make it all about one exact point in time rather than an ongoing process of sanctification is a mistake. If you remember that it is still a process, though with possible great breakthroughs, this volume will enrich your spiritual life. I see Mr. Sproul’s point to some degree (he seemed most concerned, sadly, only about adherence to confessional reformed theology), but no doubt there are special seasons of God’s dealings too. When that happens your self life is going to take some blows! Don’t be lulled into thinking you have crossed a threshold and now are safe, or beyond certain things. You could hardly be in a more dangerous place. Be cautious about thinking you are in the advanced Christian group–that is not the point of dying to self.

This is not a short cut to spirituality, but the real business of the Christian life. The idea of reckoning what Christ has done has sure helped me in some problem areas in my life. You will be helped by this volume’s discussion of that subject. No matter what anyone wants to criticize theologically, the subject of the self life fills many pages in the New Testament. It is worthy of our attention and revolutionary to our spiritual lives.

You can find this volume here.


From The Pew (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #21)

They speak. We must listen. I have their emails and Facebook messages. They want our issues addressed and changed. While some are just leaving, others are staying but praying God will bring to pass the changes we need to truly glorify Christ and honor His Word.

I could share horror stories one piled upon on another, but instead of sharing our worst, I want to share the thoughtful comments of a godly lady. She stayed, but she is concerned. You can tell she cares deeply about her church. She gave permission for me to share her letter, but only anonymously so as to not shame or hurt her church. I think some of our pastors have trouble seeing it, but this is a great representation of the hearts and minds of the rank and file. Here from the pew:

Pastor Jimmy,

First, I want to say thank you for your series on Independent Baptist Churches. I am currently a member of one and have had a variety of church experiences. I appreciate that you recommend books, because sometimes church members/attenders would like to read some good books, but they don’t know where to start. I really appreciate when pastors aren’t afraid to ‘add to’ their own preaching/teaching by recommending the thoughts of others, even if they also include a disclaimer.

Secondly, I didn’t want to comment on your recent post, because I was introduced to your blog via a former member, a young man, the son of the patriarchal church family, who went to Bible college, got married and is now a part of another church. He has two brothers connected to our pastor’s family. Although things don’t generally get political and ugly, even during business meetings, it’s a little scary to see how much that family is growing in leadership and influence. All that to say, I didn’t want to post, because it is not my intention to cast a bad light or offend anyone from our church who might follow your blog as well.

I agree that our society has created a selfish, hedonistic generation, and that has been detrimental to the church, but I have also observed that the churches that are growing while remaining Biblical sound are those that are casting off detrimental traditions, using both old and new from ‘the storehouse’, teach what true discipleship is (rather than just going through a curriculum), encourage outreach and church planting (reproduction), preach and teach expositionally and applicationally (often through books of the Bible) and not concerned with having to have an evangelistic (baby food) message on Sunday mornings, trust that people actually do want to know what the Bible says (including comparing other views) and not demonizing certain things that may not be wise but are not sin, etc. I am grateful that our leadership is very missions-minded, does support a local sister church, and has a bus ministry as well as a newly established food pantry, but some of the things you have posted in your series can be found and have been harmful to true spiritual growth.

I can imagine how discouraging pastors must get when they don’t see the results and responses they hope for, but it is really discouraging to hear a pastor express a lack of ‘faith’ and knowledge about what people are doing outside the walls of the church. People have even been made to feel guilty for not attending a small church activity. A good shepherd knows his sheep and the state of his flock; he doesn’t assume the worst. I know he isn’t God— omniscient, omnipresent— and we have a responsibility, too, to the ministry and to each other. I can only imagine the weight pastors carry, and it’s nice when they accept help or trust people with responsibilities, as well as providing the resources and/or authority to do what is needed. That, too, has been an issue, and so another thing that growing churches have is entrusting people to perform the ministry and use the talents with which God has gifted them.

Sorry this is so long. Thank you again for your heart, courage, boldness, and grace. I think your posts have been very balanced, and from the looks of things have been a blessing to many.

God bless! And I mean that. 🙂

_______ from ______

We ignore her, and those like her, at our peril.

Thanks _____. You are overly kind in your words about me, but you spoke eloquently from the pew.

I want to also share what I believe was a widely-read article by Jeff Amsbaugh recently released. He is a much more well-known pastor and blogger than me. I am glad to see it. LINK

Find all articles in the series here.

Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas–A Review

Would you like a fine Bible Atlas written by someone who has been immersed in the lands of the Bible? Then the Rose Then and Now Bible Atlas is a great option for you. Substantial at 272 pages, yet accessible even for newer Bible students, we have a real asset here.

Perhaps you saw the earlier Rose Then and Now Bible Maps. I always felt it was more of a Sunday School item than one for the serious Bible student, though the modern overlays are a brilliant idea. Frankly, there were just too few of them and I would have preferred a different scale at times. There are about the same number of overlays, but we have a fine atlas too. Really, the overlays are just a nice addition to the atlas itself.

What we have now is Rose Publishing joining the big boys in the atlas world. What is unique to this volume among the atlases out there is the historical detail given. Paul Wright does a great job of relating the biblical narrative as he progresses incorporating well the geographic details. The history begins with the Patriarchs. There is no mention of Adam or Genesis 1-11, pro or con. My guess is that there is little real geographic knowledge of those times.

Still, Scripture pervades the volume. In the chapter on Jesus, He is described as God in human form. The entire atlas takes a historical approach. There are no sections on parts of the Bible like, say, the Minor Prophets. Their time period is covered in the historical flow, just not the books themselves. Most atlases take the other approach, but I am glad to have one from this distinct vantage point.

The maps themselves are from Carta, which is the gold standard of Bible maps. The pictures are satisfactory and the maps plentiful enough to go along with a rich text. Most people just try to get one quality Bible Atlas. This volume is a contender for the Bible Student.

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.

Check it out here.

Related Post:
Bible Atlas-Finding the Right One


I Am A Church Member–A Book Review

Church membership is suffering in our day. The selfishness of our times has been a corrupting influence. We see church as something that should meet our needs rather than a place to serve Christ and others. Now church, in so many cases, falls below the model presented in the New Testament.

Enter the tonic of I Am A Church Member by Thom S. Rainer and published by B&H Books. In 6 short, really helpful chapters, he brings us back to reality on the matter of what it really means to be a church member. He shows us New Testament reality versus country club mentality. We want to get something out of our church membership, but we can only get it in serving and functioning as a real member. It is not getting taken care of, but taking care of others.

He hits on the critically important issue of actively pursuing unity in the church. Can you imagine the benefits of unity if we all made this our job? He explains how we degenerate into making church just be about my preferences and desires. How many churches have died this very way?

I would love to see this book in the hands of every church member. ( Look for $5 deals). It is good, yet short enough that those who don’t particularly enjoy reading can get through it easily. There is a pledge to sign at the end of each chapter that makes you wrestle with these issues. We had better do something as church membership is in such decline.


Scandal (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #19)

Have you heard the tragic stories that came to light in the last few months? The first one involved Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum. He was a legend in the homeschool movement and had a ministry that encouraged Christians in their family life. He went a little farther than some could agree with in his position that came to be called patriarchy. Still, he had a lovely family himself, he put out the most amazing catalog of family books and toys imaginable (my children and I loved it), and he was very influential. In November it came out that he had some sort of inappropriate relationship with the nanny he hired to help his wife. The 2014 Vision Forum catalog was printed, but never mailed. Vision Forum ceased to exist on December 31, 2013. (News article).

The other case involved Bill Gothard. He has been around since the 1970s with his writings and seminars. He had an incredibly wide ranging influence that included a certain generation among Independent Baptists (I will write on that later). Now over 70 years old, he is enveloped in scandal. Strangely, he has never been married or had children himself, but he has been accused by numerous young ladies of harassment and inappropriate touching. He has been removed from the presidency of the organization he founded. (News link).

Does that make you angry? Are you right now saying to yourself, glad they were dealt with? Most feel that way.

What should Independent Baptists learn from these scandals? (Neither of these men were Independent Baptists). There are two great lessons really. First, we shouldn’t wax too eloquent as we too are but sinners capable of falling into any sin ourselves. I pray the Lord will pour His grace into the lives of the victims and perpetrators alike. We have all sinned, but we must admit that some situations reach a level that they must be confronted. These two situations obviously reached that level. On the other hand, we have a reputation for being so hard on some. We have some ugly cases of broken confidentiality and public humiliation for some rather small infractions in some of our churches. Then there are the instances where that harsh standard is not consistently enforced. We have run some people forever out our doors over this unscriptural behavior.

Second, we must hold our own pastors and leaders accountable. I do not mean nitpick and be harsh on pastors. We pastors are but feeble sinners ourselves, but I mean deal with these major scandals including pastoral abuse. Since we are ready to lay the head of Doug Phillips or Bill Gothard on the chopping block, then why do we not hold our own to the same standard? Why would we ostracize one of our own if they fellowshipped with the wrong ministry while we look the other way if they have a real scandal or are guilty of abusing one of their sheep like the worst of hirelings.

Some pastors (an embarrassing, vocal minority) abuse their authority, that God intended to be limited and specific, by using “touch not mine anointed” beyond its legitimate usage. They make questioning of them, even in regards to actual sin and scandal, a sin when it fact the sin is theirs. Some church members have unfairly thrown out the label “dictator” on a pastor who only took a godly stand, but the fact remains there are some dictators out there.

The worst damage of this behavior shows up when scandal rears its ugly head. The sin deepens while pastors hide behind the misshapen shield of pastoral authority. The reality is that every authority has its limits under God for which the authority will answer to God. Every person under authority has a right under God to seek accountability for those in authority. That is why so many of us have something to say about our President in these days. The authority may not respond appropriately, but the Lord has written justice into the fabric of His creation.

For an outrageous example, I have read documented reports of a church where the assistant pastor/ pastor’s son had set up a secret camera and photographed young ladies changing their clothes years before. The videotapes were found and ended up in the hands of the police. The evidence was overwhelming but the sheriff said it had just past the statute of limitations. The news media made a big deal of it and it was known widely. What did the pastor do when church members approached him about this issue? He churched or excommunicated them and publicly ridiculed them to the congregation. This is a scandal itself!

Sadly, some make these type situations worse. In this example, some well known Independent Baptist leaders hold conferences at this church and hold it up as a model church. The bewildering part is that these same leaders have separated from so many other Independent Baptist pastors over personal standards, music, or personal associations. Is this insanity or what?

We should not relish scandal. We should be heartbroken about it. I consistently in this series try not to mention names of the Independent Baptists I am writing about from an issues standpoint. (Mr. Phillips and Mr. Gothard will never read this blog nor will those in their circles). Scandal will hit every group in Christianity. History proves it and the nature of sin guarantees it. Our scandals do not write us off, but how we deal with them very well could.

Find all articles in the series here.


Thought in the Absence of Certainty–A Review

We have here a book that purports to “lay the groundwork for perspectives…that raise important questions concerning religion, Scripture and even our Creator.” The book no doubt raises several questions, though I am not satisfied with all the answers. It seems the author, Mr. Gordon Dye, felt he could help make God plausible from a philosophic point of view. Perhaps he did that much, but the human heart needs more.

On the plus side, he explained many terms of philosophy and rhetoric well as he tried to stick to principles of logic. On that level he succeeded. It had a textbook feel to it, but it could serve as either an introduction or as a refresher.

On the negative side, the writing was dull. Mr. Dye is obviously a brilliant man, but his style of writing did not match that of his understanding of complex issues. He lacked passion as he worked so hard to explain. He too often filled pages with meta discourse as he spent too much time telling us what he was going to write about instead of just writing about it. He also tried to harmonize God and science where believers like some of us need no harmonization. In fact, for a sincere believer he would seem to be raising doubts. Perhaps he would be help to an agnostic, but his conclusions are too weak to really draw someone to God.

His case never gets beyond a theistic conclusion. He can only get us to god, whomever He or She may be. The book, then, would be of no more value to a Christian than, say, a Muslim. He says he was raised by ordained Evangelical Christians and that he got beyond their thought system without “rejecting his faith.” I will not propose to speak for him, but his faith made no mention of Christ. He did not preclude Christ necessarily, but He was at best lumped with all the options for God in this world. The Christian faith says you cannot reach God other than through Jesus Christ! So the book has, in my, perhaps, biased opinion, a fatal flaw.

You could argue that this is a work of philosophy, not Christian apologetics. In truth philosophy has often been an esoteric pursuit that could only raise brilliant questions that it could never quite answer. It found its readers among those with enough leisure to think long and slow. I mean slow because we could never get where we were going. The common people found little time for it because their lives throbbed with emptiness that needed filling and their hearts craved real answers. That is why apologetic works are so superior to philosophic ones, and Christ so superior to all those other gods Mr. Dye gave credence to. For example, if his logic proves the verbal inspiration for other religious books as much as the Bible (chapter 6), then it proves nothing at all.

Again, Mr. Dye is intelligent, but I can’t really recommend 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.


Christian Faith in the Old Testament: The Bible of the Apostles–A Review

When the Apostles turned to their Bible, what was it for them? In clear, accessible style, Gareth Lee Cockerill shows us that it is what we call the Old Testament. More than that, he rescues the Old Testament from the oblivion that some would banish it to. He discusses it with gusto because he believes it is critical for Christians today. Unlike many scholars, he follows what the New Testament told Christians to do with the Old Testament–1 Corinthians 10:11 “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.“–that is, mine its pages for great spiritual treasure! Thank you Mr. Cockerill.

This book succeeds on every level. It accomplishes its goal of reigniting passion for the Old Testament. In reading it you get a good overview or even an Old Testament survey. Even better, you get it without the dryness that some scholars are ever handicapped to write with. As a substantial bonus, and what separates this book from many competitors, there is real application for the Bible student or pastor scattered all along the way. The Charts added real value as well. They actually taught something. I was particularly blessed as seeing the parts and the whole in a better way.

The Appendix on “Why are these books in our Old Testament?” was exceptional. With all the critical questions on the Canon being thrown around today, I can hardly think of a more succinct presentation. He lands where many of us believe. In a small compass you really got the help you need.

I enjoyed reading this volume straight through, now it will find its way onto my shelves for reference when I begin study of a new book. Such books have always proven a great boon to me.

I read this book thinking I wish more scholars wrote this way. On every page I felt that Mr. Cockerill believes– he really believes! That is more of a problem in the scholarly world than some realize. I know he is a respected scholar because he has recently released a major commentary on Hebrews (that makes sense) in the prestigious NICNT series. I want to get that book now too.

A+ all the way here. I recommend it for Bible teachers and pastors, but studious layman can handle it too. Master this volume’s contents and a better Bible understanding 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.