Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi (Apollos Commentary) by Petterson

The latest offering in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series, published by IVP, covers the last three of the Minor Prophets where most pastors and Bible students are a little less savvy. If this volume is a precursor of what is to come in this series, it is going to be incredible.

Mr. Petterson was an unknown scholar to me, but writes as well any I have seen. His judgments are conservative, logical, and mature. He brings these three prophets to life in a way that will be a help to those who teach or preach God’s Word.

He gives us a General Introduction for the three prophets in the first 40 pages. The section on Historical Context was superb and really made clear how the times fit in to these prophet’s messages. He also gave us an overview of the methodical approaches to the prophets without dragging us into glassy-eyed boredom. Ever better, he easily dispatched some of the lunacy that somehow often derails the scholarly world.

After that Introduction, each prophet is tackled individually with its own Introduction and thorough commentary. After his own translation, he gives us notes on the text, form and structure, and comment. I found the comments very helpful. I felt I had a much better understanding of these three prophets after reading in this volume.

This commentary is a clear winner and I hope Mr. Petterson gets future commentary assignments as well.

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 Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

What a joy to see Hendrickson Publishers select this title for their new Classic Biography series in lovely bindings. The series aims to reprint the greatest biographies and this title qualifies as, perhaps, the best of its kind. I am at a loss to tell you just how extraordinary The Hiding Place really is. Beyond the timeless story, the book is well written and designed for easy reading. Teenagers to the aged need this book.

To think of a simple, God-fearing family of watchmakers in the Netherlands and then watch this same family rise to the heights of faith and action when the Nazis overran their simple existence is a spiritual journey for every reader.

After the background of their lives is vividly set in an economy of words, the story of their work in the Underground to rescue persecuted Jews with all its twists is given. Had the story ended there it would have been a testament of love, sacrifice, and dedication.

But the story did not end there. They were arrested. The father died. The first prison seemed terrible until you read of the next one. This is when faith and a growing closeness to Christ really rose and becomes a challenge for every Christian reader.

The last prison was a city of horrors, but they found a way to trust the Lord and serve Him in an amazing way. The also saw the Lord do things that were truly miraculous in the midst of their incredible suffering. Getting the Word in each prison shows how the Lord reaches out to those who turn to Him. That Word sustained them just as the Lord promises it would.

They learned how to see the Lord’s hand and be thankful for it, all the way down to the fleas (read it, you will see). The sickly, broken Betsy faced death as the victor that in Christ she truly was.

This story is not merely moving biography, nor even inspiration. No, it is one of the greatest challenges of faith you will ever lay your hands on. Truly, one of the greatest Christian books of all time!

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.

hiding place

Jeremiah and Lamentations (TOTC) by Lalleman

The Tyndale Commentary series, published by IVP, continues its revision in this successful replacement volume for Jeremiah and Lamentations. In fact, this volume is superior to the R. K. Harrison volume it replaces–if for no other reason, it gives us 373 pages to 240. The longest of the Prophets needed those extra pages for sure.

There are fine, succinct Introductions for both Jeremiah and Lamentations. The section on historical background was well done and fits Jeremiah into Israel’s history, as well as international influences. His life and ministry covered the final dark days of a people who had little time left for the Lord all the way through their overthrow and subsequent captivity. This history explains the hard words we often find here and makes more poignant the promises of restoration.

Their is only a little talk of redaction as the author lands on the text as we have it for commentary purposes. This is far superior and spares us the endless speculation some commentaries are compelled to encumber us with. There are other helpful discussions: the key word “turn”, how “falsehood” in false prophets is a recurring theme, and suffering which hits prophet and people alike. Finally, the New Covenant and Jeremiah in the New Testament finish out the helpful introduction.

The commentary proper offers thoughtful help. Perhaps you will still find some passages with less commentary than you wished, but that is likely only because Jeremiah is so long. Still, you will find it worth consulting.

In my opinion, this commentary is not quite as good as another commentary published by IVP and aimed at a similar audience, “The Message of Jeremiah” by Christopher Wright. Still, multiple helps on Jeremiah are so beneficial, and at this price how could you go wrong? 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.

jeremiah totc

A Necessary Grief by Larry Michael

As pastors we certainly need guidance in helping our folks as they go through bereavement. This book, subtitled “Essential Tools For Leadership In Bereavement Ministry”, certainly provides that help. It helps get inside the thinking bereaving ones are going through more effectively than most such volumes that I have seen.

The author defines grief and how it impacts people differently. He covers the many emotions that may arise, yet he warns us that thinking of it as a process may cause us to misunderstand those grieving. “Steps” may not be in order, nor may every one show up in every person.

He well presents many fallacies where we may be giving unhelpful advice. He also teaches us to avoid the clichés that we so often use because most are actually shallow and make us seem not to care. That is followed by helpful things to say and do. The book finally transition to expanding our help to full-blown bereavement ministries. It is all well done. The appendixes add even more value.

As I read this book, it seemed to be an updating for our generation for what Wiesbe’s “Comforting The Bereaved” said a generation ago, and Blackwood’s “The Funeral” did for the generation before that. All three books would likely cover that subject quite well in your library. This volume is a success in speaking to our day 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 Truth We Baptists Should Never Forget (IBTR #68)

Sometimes in a series like this we discuss denominational pride, or in our case, believing that Independent Baptists are the only ones who are serving the Lord in an effective way. In recent articles we mentioned the extreme Baptist Brider position and its more common counterpart, the belief that we must separate from any who are not Independent Baptists. As you would imagine, once you start down that road the next step becomes separating from Independent Baptist who are not Independent Baptist enough.

I am on record as an Independent Baptist who finds that wrong, an example of misguided thinking and unbridled pride. Instead of exposing that as pride in this article, however, I would like to offer a fact that should be faced in any discussion on this subject. Maybe I should put it as a question.

How do you explain the mighty things God has done in other Christian groups? Further, how do you explain the incredible faith, love of Christ, and wonderful service of individuals in other Christian groups?

How do you explain Hudson Taylor, or George Mueller, or Jonathan Edwards, or George Whitefield, or John Wesley? These Christians were men of faith, but not Baptists. Human? Yes, but they are some of the choicest servants of Christ ever and only a twisting of the facts could state otherwise.

I began thinking of these questions as I was reading and reviewing The Korean Pentecost this week. It is the story of Presbyterians, some men I had never heard of, who took the Gospel to Korea. In 1865 Robert Taylor took passage on a boat up into Korea to take Bibles and be one of the first missionaries there. After being able to give out Bibles at a few stops, rumors took fire that this boat crew came to rob the Koreans. Long story short, when the boat grounded and was set on fire by the Koreans, the crew took its only chance and charged the shore with weapons. They all died. It wasn’t until missionaries returned years later that it was discovered what happened. They were told the story and how all the crew were killed. They recounted, though, that one man came ashore without weapons but arms filled with Bibles where he handed out all he could before he died.

The other extraordinary thing about that story was that the missionaries discovered many pockets of believers where that man handed out the Bibles. Who could deny that God’s hand was incredibly upon that man who gave his life for his Savior? As that Presbyterian work continued through the years, an incredible revival came, which was followed by persecution where many other bold believers gave their lives for Christ.

So back to our question. If God’s hand is only upon we Independent Baptists, how can this and the many stories like it be explained? God has blessed the work of Baptists. He has blessed the work of others. The Lord has sent revival to Baptists. He has sent revival to others. Baptists have given their lives for Christ. So have others. We have an incredible heritage, but so do others.

We can, of course, disagree on a few points in our efforts to be true to Scripture as best we understand it. In the case of those Presbyterians, we would differ from them on Baptism, church polity, and a few other things, but that in no way proves our superiority over them. Again, that tracing of God’s hand in both groups makes that an opinion that cannot be logically held.

So we must humble ourselves and drop a belief that cannot possibly be true. This is a truth we Baptists should never forget.

Find all articles in the series here.


The Korean Pentecost by Blair and Hunt

Here is a volume coming back into print where I had heard rumors of its being outstanding. By missionaries William Blair and Bruce Hunt, this book covers the first 60 years of the Gospel coming into Korea. The title “The Korean Pentecost And The Sufferings Which Followed” gives a hint of what you will discover here. It is hard to comprehend so much happening in 60 years and that the ministries of two missionaries went through it all. What the reader gets through it all is a strengthening of faith, the amazement of seeing God’s hand at work, and the inspiration of others serving our Lord through tribulation and even death.

The authors well tell a story of the preparation for the Gospel in Korea before Mr. Blair arrived. The story of the seed sown by Robert Thomas in 1865 in chapter 3 is one you will never forget once you read it. It moved me in a way nothing has in a long time.

Then the work is described until in 1907 the Lord graciously sent revival.  It is so compelling to read of real revival, what it looks like, and what transpired. Negatives as are present in any revival were not hidden, but they were few. As you read you will catch yourself praying: “Lord, send such a revival today.”

The second half of the book tells of the sufferings that came next over several decades, first at the hands of the Japanese, then from the Communists. Amazingly, the work of the Lord continued to grow though sufferings reached horrific levels. The book was never about gratuitous violence, but just enough to explain what happened. What says more in the reader’s mind is the calm, pure dedication to Christ of those who suffered. When we have no idea of what we may face, it is good to read of what can be true in Christ in the worst of times.

The authors were humble and made the stories about the Korean Christians, yet I believe I discovered two more Christian heroes in them. This is the kind of story that needs to be in every home. More than merely biography or history, it is a gripping portrait of what Christianity should be.

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.


Two New Titles From Carta Jerusalem

It is always exciting to see what new releases Carta Jerusalem has out. Here are two–one on a technical subject and another that makes for great history and touring.

Understanding The Alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Ada Yardeni

Dr. Yardeni is one of the world’s leading authorities on Hebrew paleography, or the study of Hebrew handwriting. In this short, but profusely illustrated volume, she reviews the Dead Sea Scrolls to evaluate the development of the handwriting with an eye to dating. Though that is not my field, you can see a distinct evolution of the texts in the samples she provides.

If you are studying this subject, this title will be indispensable. She gives a page of hints that students will love at the end. This will likely be the definitive volume that will be all anyone would ever need.

Jerusalem: The Temple Mount by Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer

In a word, this book is incredible. It is small enough (160 pages) and has a durable enough cover to be easy to carry on your next visit to Jerusalem. Even if you don’t make it to Jerusalem in the near future, this book can enlighten you as an armchair traveler. It holds its own as a small reference volume on your shelves as well.

The Ritmeyers are experts whose comments are trustworthy and well stated.(I am told they have other Carta titles that take this history farther).  Add to that superb photos and those awesome Carta maps and you have a winner.

The first chapter gives a succint history of the Temple Mount. Check out the illustration of Mt. Moriah before any building took place (page 13). With that map, later Temples are superimposed upon it that gives eye-opening perspective.  The history comes down to modern times and is captivating.

The other two chapters offer self-guided tours of outside the walls and upon the Temple Mount itself. I went to the Temple Mount a few years ago and loved it though I went along willy nilly; but I would so love to have had this book. It would have doubled what I got out of the visit. What better could I say about this volume? Don’t visit the Temple Mount without 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.


George Will On The Government And Free-Range Parenting

I want to share one of the most brilliant, perceptive articles I have read in a long time. George Will has a great mind and I have enjoyed hearing what he has to say since I was a teenager.

He analyzes not only how the government is sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong, but also how we shelter our children from the wrong things. His best example is having no control over sex and alcohol in undergraduate studies while need to protect them from certain speech.

I had better stop talking and send you on to Mr. Will.

The George Will Article at National Review.

Joshua by Trent Butler (WBC) [Revised]

Here is a full-scale revision of Mr. Butler’s 1983 offering to the Word Biblical Commentary series. I can say upfront that this is the best revision by the same author that I have ever seen done in a major commentary series. I own the older volume and this revision has numerous upgrades. So many upgrades, in fact, that it had to grow to two volumes.

Reading the new Author’s Preface you can tell Mr. Butler was surprised that his earlier edition of this commentary was not as well received by conservatives as he expected. While he tried to explain himself at great lengths to prove that he was more conservative than thought, he nevertheless brought this commentary more squarely into the conservative camp by what he wrote this time. I still don’t agree with him on compositional issues, but really appreciate the direction he came.

In volume 1 he has a three part Introduction. The first part is about textual issues and he makes the Masoretic Text his focus. Then he gives a major, impressive section on a “Review of Critical Research”. With a deft hand he brings us from Keil to the present. It could serve as a prototype of what a history of interpretation ought to look like. It was fascinating to see all the zany sidewalks of thought in the study of Joshua, but you will be up to speed on where scholarship has gone before. The final part covers things like ethical and theological issues,

The rest of the volume is commentary in the typical WBC format covering Joshua 1-12.

The second volume covers Joshua 13-24 in 362 more pages. Some paragraphs are unchanged, but many have been rewritten or at least tweaked.

There are many other helpful additions including some well done charts that were not present in the first edition. The visual additions really aid comprehending what he is saying. There are massive bibliographies throughout that will delight the scholars too.

All in all, this set is a winner and will be around for years to come.

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.


Are You A Narcissist? (IBTR #67)

May I answer the question for you? Yes, you are and so am I. The real discussion is not whether we have narcissistic tendencies, but are we battling them. This is, of course, a human problem and not a denominational one. Though this series is aimed at those who are, or have been, part of the Independent Baptist world, this subject extends far beyond it. Those in it struggle here not because they are Independent Baptists, but because they are flesh and blood and join in the human condition. In that it is a challenge for us all, it affects every group of people including those in Christian circles. So that calls for a word here.

Narcissism as a term for our malady traces back to Narcissus in Greek Mythology. Its essence as a concept, though, goes back to Eden. Narcissus was a young handsome chap who caught a reflection of himself in a pond. He was so captivated by his own reflection that he fell in love with himself. This love affair grew until the captivated Narcissus fell in the pond and drowned. Whatever you think of Greek mythology, can you think of a better, or more accurate, story for being impressed and infatuated with yourself?

This excessively growing love that is narcissism has been described as “an unbounded admiration of self.” As bad as it has always been, it is clearly a growing issue of the Last Days: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” (II Timothy 3:2).

Being in a church setting, or a Christian home, or in a room all by yourself, is no guarantee to avoid narcissism. A preacher could look over his sermon notes and think…wow, this is awesome. A singer could come to believe that applause actually proved something. A pastor might start believing and openly proclaiming how great his ministry is…the best in town, or maybe the state. A volunteer might come to believe the church’s future is fully on his back.

Our teaching or preaching may become overloaded with stories where we are the hero. Beyond the little stories of things we have observed, our stories become ever more the tale of one rescuing the world, of one clearly standing above others. Just before we fall into the pond staring at our own reflection, our story grows more relevant as we speak than His story. 

It will show up in our daily lives as well. We might blog and think ours has more potential to change the world than others. (Ouch). Our Facebook or Twitter statuses grow beyond keeping up with each other to a need to status because those readers need to hear from us. It’s not the posting that is an issue, but the thought processes as we hit “send”.

The answer is in God’s Word. The reflection that you see in the mirror of its pages gives a more vivid and accurate image of us than do those ripples across the pond. If you look at it long enough you won’t fall in love with yourself, but with Christ Who is worthy of the deep love we narcissists usually give ourselves.

Perhaps, narcissism isn’t so surprising after all. I was reading the other day that we are made in the image of God and that God is worthy of praise. Somewhere inside of we who are in His image is a need for that praise. There is, however, two problems: 1) We are not the Almighty even if in His image, and 2) We are corrupted by sin and incredibly unworthy. We are marred and we view our lives as touched-up photos.

We must strive to keep the accurate, biblical view of ourselves ever before our eyes or we will never do any worthwhile ministry. We must stay in love with Christ, and fulfilled by Him, so that we need not believe such hopelessly ridiculous things about ourselves. The world could get along without us without missing one beat. On the other hand, it cannot do without Him.

So, I pray–Lord, help me keep the narcissist within at bay.

Find all articles in the series here.