The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Presidential Bio. Series)

book bully pulpit

You would have thought the design of this book would have caused it to collapse under its own weight. I mean how could a biography of two presidents along with the most influential journalists of the age possibly work? I mean the word that comes to mind is–unfocused! Believe it or not, Doris Kearns Goodwin pulled it off. Count this as one of the really enjoyable presidential biographies out there.

Having Teddy Roosevelt didn’t hurt its chances of holding interest with his colorful life. I’ve read a few books on him and would summarize him as larger-than-life, principled, but egotistical. His zeal was legendary, but his pride was too. Though he was agreeable to Christian moral principles (perhaps more than several that held the office), he was not a man with faith in anyone other than himself.

My biggest surprise was how likable Taft was. A gentleman that was a perfect candidate for best friend. Not really a Christian, but a fine moral, upstanding man is how I would describe him. Over the course of a deep, yet turbulent friendship, Taft was much the better friend to Roosevelt than the other way around. Goodwin did a great job in bringing their relationship alive.

At first I didn’t enjoy the biography space given to key journalists, though I did grow to appreciate it. They really had an impact on that time period–so much so that I wonder if Roosevelt could have risen as far as he did in another epoch.

Goodwin has turned out an enjoyable read here. I feel like I know both men so much better.

The Counselor by A. W. Tozer

book tozer coun

Here’s another Tozer title that elicits soul searching. Moody Publishers now prints several of his titles and this one is slightly longer than some of the others I have seen. As you can imagine, this is another volume on the Holy Spirit. That was always a favorite subject for Tozer and he doesn’t disappoint here.  He reminds us of the Person of the Holy Spirit and entices us to be filled with the Spirit. If you are a Tozer reader, that will come as no surprise. Though he returned to this theme again and again in his writings, this one is the best I’ve seen from him on the subject so far.

He begins by explaining the Holy Spirit comes only when Jesus Christ is glorified. That entire chapter was outstanding and a great springboard for the book. He is in no way trite when he argues that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come through the intellect. In chapter 3 he comes at our churches. He says, “The Holy Spirit can be absent and the pastor goes on turning the crank, and nobody finds it out for years and years.” Ouch!

He is very sensible in what can be replicated from Pentecost and what cannot. He believes that the filling of the Spirit always arrives in an instant. In chapter 6 he turns the spotlight on we readers and how to evaluate. In the next chapter he explains spiritual gifts followed by the probing chapter on what we really need. The last chapter is a plea to be holy and not block the fullness of the Spirit.

Add this title to the string of pearls known as Tozer’s writings. It’s another 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.

Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature–A Book Review

book ot wisdom

Here’s a scholarly book designed to really get at what OT wisdom literature is and what scholarship has thought it to be. Edited by David Firth and Lindsay Wilson, this book highlights the work of eleven scholars on the oft-debated issues of wisdom literature.

Part 1 is one chapter by Craig Bartholomew that introduces where the study of OT wisdom is today. That provides a fine overview, including some of the more bizarre things out there.

Part 2 gives chapters on the four main wisdom books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song by Ernest Lucas, Lindsay Wilson, Katherine Dell, and Rosalind Clarke respectively. All of the chapters were worthwhile providing the reader learning each time.

Part 3 branches out on themes including seeing Ruth as Wisdom literature, retribution, wisdom, the connection of wisdom and biblical theology, voicing, and a really profound discussion of divine absence.   Gregory Goswell, Lennart Bostrom, David Firth, Christopher Ansberry (he was a really good writer), Simon Stocks, and Brittany Melton provided these chapters.

The book was a solid effort. If you like this type of book, I suggest you check out “Five Festal Garments” by Barry Webb from the same publisher as well. I predict you will see this volume quoted often in future scholarly works. It would be a worthy addition to your library.

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.

Luke 1 (Hermeneia) by Bovon

book luke bovon

This commentary is one where I’ve heard so many tidbits of praise that I have long wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. With this review I’ve had my opportunity to look over this commentary from the Hermeneia series that I’ve had little interaction with. Since the series is geared more to scholars while my needs are that of a pastor, perhaps that was to be expected. Having now looked at this first volume of the three-volume set, I’m ready to admit that it is as special as its press clippings say.

Even though I have some caveats to my glowing review, I’m so glad to have it at my disposal. I must confess that the Introduction is rather brief, and misses what most introductions of an exegetical commentary discuss. That reason, I’ve heard, is because Bovon has written a full volume on introductory matters of Luke’s Gospel and feels no need of repetition. Further, I have no sympathy with his conclusions about sources, dating, or the historical integrity of what Luke’s Gospel says. Why with such caveats do I offer such a high ranking?

He is savvy with exegetical or philological insights. Even better, his theological help is profound. In the passages I reviewed, after I read past matters I couldn’t agree with, I’d find sparkling nuggets that enabled whole new lines of thought. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’m looking for in a commentary. He’d often pull in incredibly interesting references from other parts of Scripture. I find that kind of help stimulating.

Aimed at scholars or not, I still recommend this book as a fine resource for pastors!

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.

Seven Leaders by Iain Murray

book seven leaders

Iain Murray continues his impressive output of biographies in this latest volume published by Banner of Truth. Though some are more known than others, his 7 mini-biographies on John Elias, Andrew Bonar, Archie Brown, Kenneth MacRae, Martin Lloyd-Jones, W. J. Grier and John MacArthur makes for enjoyable reading. He intends to show that the Lord uses different individuals to similarly do a mighty work. Still, you might not see the connection in the seven here, and even surmise that a better list could have been assembled, yet that doesn’t hinder the book from being a good one.

Murray is chatty. He at times falls into the minutia of a doctrinal debate, he over-emphasizes election, and can jump around a lot. While being casual would sink most biographers, Murray comes out on top again. I’ve never failed to be blessed by his biographies. It’s the perceptive spiritual and devotional content he draws out of the lives of those he writes about that makes his books as edifying as they are enjoyable.

Any preacher will get a double blessing from this book. He has striking conversations about what we do as preachers from the words and actions of those whose story he tells. He refers several times to the difference in varying texts and the consecutive method and concludes both have a place. It’s only preaching devoid of doctrine that misses the mark.

The three he has already written biographies on were the ones he seemed to purposefully not give as much biographic details. He preferred to make more wry observations instead. I’ve always loved Lloyd-Jones and that chapter was what you’d expect. Of those I knew little, I especially enjoyed John Elias, Archie Brown, and Kenneth MacRae. Though I was familiar with Bonar, his chapter was enlightening and outstanding.

As an added bonus, Banner always provides beautiful volumes with its hardbacks. This book is a worthy choice to find its place on your biography shelves and to provide several hours of reading pleasure.

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.

River of Doubt by Candice Millard (Presidential Bio. series)

book doubt

This thrilling book could only be classified a presidential biography in the loosest sense. Actually, it’s one episode in life of a man who happened to be a president of the United States earlier. Think high adventure rather than biography and you will come closer to the mark.

Candace Millard provides here one of the most exciting reads I’ve had in a while. There’s drama, there’s suspense, there’s all the things that make a book hard to put down to find between the covers of this page turner.

Still, much of Teddy Roosevelt’s character, good and bad, comes to light in this book. The River of Doubt is a microcosm of his larger-than-life story. There’s his indomitable will, his legendary zeal, his unfailing chivalry, his rock-solid code, his infectious personality all stacked up beside his ugly, outrageous ego.

Millard is such a fine writer that even the preparation of the trip was completely interesting. The drama of those traveling with Roosevelt and crossing rough country to even begin the dissent of the river ratcheted up with each page. Then her description of the actual journey down the River of Doubt is an experience not to be missed. I knew Roosevelt did not die in Brazil, but still wondered if he would make it page after page.

Not since Washington’s frontier experiences have I seen any president go through things that TR did here. Though his ego was embarrassing at many junctures (as in all of his life), you couldn’t help but love him as you read this story. For the record, those around him on this journey came to love him too.

Whether you love presidential biographies, or prefer captivating stories, you’ll be a winner either way in this extraordinary tale.

Ephesians (ZECNT) by Clint Arnold

book ephesians z

Clinton Arnold, who also happens to be the editor, contributes this volume on the wonderful Book of Ephesians in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (ZECNT) series. Mr. Arnold is a scholar highly qualified to comment on this book, one of the most important in the Bible. It’s obvious that Ephesians has been area of expertise for him. As with several volumes in the series, Mr. Arnold holds conservative viewpoints and defends them in a magisterial fashion. His bold proclamation of a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture was much appreciated by this reviewer.

He begins his Introduction by relating his awe of the Book of Ephesians. He believes the destination of the letter is Ephesus and shows the recent scholarly rejection of it to be built on a foundation of sand. He draws a vibrant portrait of the setting in Ephesus including its diverse religious and cultural background. He traces where Judaism stood there. I found it easy to agree with his four main themes of Ephesians too.

On authorship he remains convinced of Paul and explains why we should as well. He sifts through the scholarly debate over Ephesians similarity to Colossians to good advantage. He doesn’t have as much to say about structure as some, but doesn’t believe rhetoric is as in play as some have argued. After an outline and bibliography, he jumps into the commentary of the text.

The commentary is in the pastor-friendly ZECNT style. I read through some of what I believe to be the harder passages and loved what I found. There’s great presentation of options and clear reasoning about what he feels to be the right conclusion. I thought his section on the household code was balanced and firmly complementarian.

There’s a lot of competition in the Ephesians commentary category. He’s much more succinct than Hoehner and up near the staus of O’Brien. The writing flows well and the content is top notch. This volume is clearly in the must-have category.

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.

Colossians and Philemon (ZECNT) by David Pao

book colossians

The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series rings the bell again with this fine volume on Colossians and Philemon by David Pao. The more volumes in this series I peruse, the more I like the ZECNT format. The scholarship is conservative and the outlook warmly in sympathy with the biblical text. Pao holds his own with the other great scholarly writers in the series.

The Introduction to Colossians is ideal. He argues beautifully for traditional conclusions while succinctly sharing various viewpoints. Still, he doesn’t let this volume drown in the weirder scholarly drama that we sometimes find in modern exegetical commentaries. He agrees with the long-accepted conclusion that Paul is the author and feels that Rome is the most likely location of the letter’s origin. He describes well the audience in Colossae and explains the circumstances behind the text. He sees both a Jewish legalism and syncretism at play in Colossians. He provides a helpful outline and bibliography.

The commentary on Colossians follows the usual format of discussing literary context, offering up the main idea, diagramming the text, discussing the structure, providing an exegetical outline, followed by substantial commentary on the text along with a section on theology in application. This format really serves up exactly what the pastor needs and is helpful throughout. I found his comments perceptive.

Philemon is given a similar Introduction followed by the same type of commentary format. Though I do not really agree with his rejection of seeing Onesimus as a runaway slave, it’s all still very helpful. I’m more in sympathy with his conclusions on Colossians, but this is still a superb choice for Philemon.

This commentary ranks up there with Douglas Moo  and Peter O’Brien and is newer than either of them. Add to its high rating its economical price and you have a winner here. 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 First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar)

book 1 cor

Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner team up to provide this commentary on First Corinthians in the highly respected, conservative Pillar Commentary series edited by D. A. Carson. At this point, I’ve used most of the volumes in this series, and even reviewed several of them, and can’t deny that this series is one of the premier ones on the New Testament. Many of us look forward to when the entire New Testament is covered.

This volume on First Corinthians is huge, at just under 900 pages, on this one of the more challenging books of the New Testament. After a lengthy bibliography, the authors dive into an Introduction. With a confession that First Corinthians is one of Paul’s most difficult letters, they then jump into a discussion of the background of the church in Corinth. That section is quite well done. Next, they examine the identity and aims of the apostle Paul. They conclude that “Paul’s aim, then, is to bring about true worship and obedience among the Gentiles, to the glory of God”.

In the discussion about the interpretation of the book, they outline the structure of First Corinthians. They feel “the four main elements of 1 Corinthians are (in order) wisdom, sexuality, worship, and resurrection/consummation”. A section that was a bit harder to follow was the biblical theological framework of First Corinthians. They pull in many parallels from the Old Testament. They discuss verbal aspect and finally conclude that a “biblical/Jewish approach provides a solid basis for appreciating the structure and coherence of Paul’s response to Corinthian problems and also does greater justice to the fundamentally Jewish character of Paul’s response to the Corinthians”. You will have to decide for yourself if you see the depths of the Jewish character that they do.

The commentary itself is outstanding and of the high-caliber writing that we are used to finding in the Pillar commentary series. When checking several of the more notorious problem passages, you will find the authors arguing clearly and helpfully. I really liked what they had to say! I’m sure scholars will love this detailed volume. On the other hand, this volume is likely the top exegetical commentary on First Corinthians available to pastors today.

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.

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclaimation: 1-2 Timothy and Titus

book pastorals

 This second release in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series by B & H Publishing is a home run. Andreas Kostenberger has produced a conservative, thoughtful, and winning commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. I anticipated a good volume based on what he has written and edited on the highly-debated passages of these books in the past, and if anything, this volume exceeds my expectations. You have to love a book that holds to biblical inerrancy, has a complementarian viewpoint, and does not run off the rails with esoteric or pointless scholarly misconceptions.

His Introduction covers much of the typical information that you would find in any substantial commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, which he prefers to call LTT, or Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Authorship, date, relation between the three letters, and the roles of Timothy and Titus (he sees them as apostolic delegates rather than pastors). He further discusses canonicity, authenticity (which he fully accepts), chronology, and historical context. He has an interesting section on literary analysis and structure as well.

Still, the commentary proper is what I loved. Even better, he always did his best work in the harder passages. Passages on pastoral qualifications, women in ministry, and household code were handled with aplomb. As is an aim of the series, he beautifully draws out theology too. Can you tell I’m really high on this commentary? I couldn’t imagine not using it in any future study in the Pastoral Epistles.

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.