Jonah (ZECOT) [Second Edition] by Youngblood

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When I reviewed the original volume of this work just a few years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with it and gave it the highest rating. Quite simply, it was one of the best exegetical commentaries I had ever seen on Jonah. As it turns out, this Second Edition is very little changed from the earlier one. Nevertheless, my opinion has not changed either. There’s a new EEC volume that covers Jonah with two other prophets. It would be fair to say that these two volumes supersede all exegetical commentaries in print today on Jonah.

I love the approach of a ZECOT volume. Modern scholarship has had many developments that are of no detectable value for pastors, but discourse analysis really opens up the understanding of a passage. Youngblood is outstanding in handling the discourse analysis and gives dependable, conservative help throughout.

As I said for the first edition, Mr. Youngblood’s Introduction to the book of Jonah struck me as being of the perfect length and depth. He discussed the usual suspects – placement in the Canon, historical context, literary context, and an outline – with verve. Much of the information was of the kind that really aids one preaching on Jonah. He beautifully wove in his discourse analysis as well throughout the entire work.

The commentary itself is superb. Again, he always keeps us grounded in the context at large. Still, he draws out the needed background, word meanings, and other important detail. At the end of every periscope, there is fine theological reflection too.

You may not need to replace your first edition, but this is a commentary that you cannot do without!

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.

Handbook on Acts and Paul’s Letters by Thomas Schreiner

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If you use modern scholarly works, you already know Thomas R. Schreiner. He has written a multitude of well-received, highly helpful books including major exegetical commentaries. Now he tackles a handbook on Acts and the Epistles of Paul. Fortunately, when we say the Epistles of Paul, Schreiner means all 13 of them! That alone was totally refreshing. Schreiner is simply more conservative than several other major scholars of our day. For that reason alone, any work he writes is worth checking out.

I would label this volume a content survey. Those can be quite tricky to produce and some such volumes have almost no value. Rather than giving an overview, they provide so little depth that they add nothing. In this case, however, Schreiner has succeeded. You can truly follow the flow of the book you’re studying and have a real understanding of what’s going on. Think big picture rather than minutia, but a real drawing out of the theme of what that book is trying to say to us.

Perhaps I liked a few of the introductions better than others. In some cases like the one on Acts, he added a few helpful charts that just brought it alive in the opening statements that discussed structure and themes. In fact, that would be my only minor fault of the book is that a few of the books of the Bible covered do not have that material with the helpful charts. In any event, I feel he totally succeeded both in the broad introduction and the overview of the content. This volume is a total winner on providing what I would want in a handbook on these New Testament books. I don’t see how you could go wrong in using 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 Care of Souls by Senkbeil (Books on Ministry #26)

book care souls

This book surprised me. The advertisements for it looked intriguing, but we are blessed to have many wonderful volumes about the work of a pastor. The author, Harold L. Senkbeil, is a long-time Lutheran pastor. Since I am not a Lutheran, I wondered if I might diverge from him on many points. To be sure, he would sometimes talk about the sacraments or baptism in a way that is totally foreign to my thinking, but I loved his book nonetheless. I could easily roll over those sacramental comments because what he had to say about God, His Word, and the ministry struck me directly in the heart. He wrote in so many ways about the pastor I want to be and showed me the way to get there.

He had a knack for working in his life experiences without ever making it about him. He would mention what he learned growing up on a farm many times but I assure you it was never trite nor meaningless. In fact, every facet of farming that he ties to the ministry will be so clear that you will wonder why you hadn’t thought of it before. He gives a wonderful description of what a pastor even is. He will explain both the care and the cure of souls and define a pastoral “habitus” along the way. Even if you’ve never heard the term before, you will be glad to make its acquaintance. There’s an extraordinary chapter on how the word of God is our source for ministry. His description of part of pastoring being the work of diagnosis and a work on the soul covers more in one chapter than some such books do in their entirety. His chapter on treatment of what is diagnosed makes it all practical. Other chapters that tie everything to Christ are extraordinary. He relates theologically how to talk about sin and justification and what shame and guilt are in a way that will minister to your soul as he’s trying to tell you how to help others! Be sure to check out his sexual case study, which again is written for you to help others, in a chapter that is as good as I’ve ever read on that subject.

I have underlined many sentences in my copy. In addition to the wonderful material, the author is an extraordinary, captivating writer. I was unable to read this book fast. In fact, I could never read more than one chapter at a sitting because it would give me so much to dwell on. That means it may take you a few days to read it, but they will be days well spent. This publisher has had a legacy year in writing about pastoring as they’ve already released one of the best volumes on preaching (The Heart of the Preacher) that I have seen in a long time. This book is worthy of 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.

Exegetical Lectures and Sermons on Hebrews by Charles Hodge

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What pastor hasn’t heard of Charles Hodge? You will often see his commentaries in worn condition in used bookstores because generations of pastors have used his works. For some years now, Banner of Truth has become THE publisher of his works and fortunately are keeping them in print in far better quality volumes than used to be the case. What we have here, however, is something the older pastors have never had: Charles Hodge on Hebrews.

If you get this lovely hardback edition, be sure to take the time to read the introduction that was prepared by William Vandoodewaard. He provides a brief biographical overview of Hodge’s life before he explains how this Hebrew volume came about. In short, it took some work on his behalf to gather and edit Hodge’s material into what became this new commentary!

The commentary, of course, is not as full as his other commentaries, but you will enjoy having it on hand to study. The first section contains exegetical lectures that though briefer are in the Hodge style that we are familiar with. He even has comments on the Greek interspersed throughout his perceptive comments. The next section is called sermons and outlines. They are mostly sermons rather than outlines and are hit or miss in terms of texts addressed. Still, they cover some of the most important texts in Hebrews in quality sermons, again though shorter, that may be quite helpful in suggesting approaches to preaching these texts. In addition, they will make fine devotional reading.

You know you can count on Banner to create a volume that will last for years to come and I highly recommend this latest 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.

Ecclesiates (TOTC) by Heim

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The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series keeps turning out these replacement volumes at a rate that would be a model for other series. The series retains its status as the best shorter commentary series that still has real depth with each of these new releases that I have seen. Knut Martin Heim upholds the standards that we have come to expect from the series. As a matter of personal taste, I may not have liked this volume as much of some of the other recent releases, but that probably has as much to do with the uniqueness of Ecclesiastes as anything else. In other words, scholarship on Ecclesiastes has gone a direction that some of us feel only gets us farther from its truth. Perhaps I’m a little too much of the old school to follow his theory about Qoheleth rather than Solomon, but I must confess he’s in line with the majority of what’s being written today. I can’t quite swallow that the writer of Ecclesiastes is mostly being sarcastic either. On a more positive note, the writing and scholarship in this volume are impeccable. He clearly communicates what he thinks and is adept at succinctly presenting current scholarly thinking.

The Introduction is crystal clear in explaining his viewpoint. While he has trouble with Solomon as the author, he highlights inter-textual issues, Canon, date and historical context, language and genre, as well as the theological and practical message of the book. I found him easy to follow. There’s a good select bibliography and analysis outline as well as his own translation. The commentary proper is never trite or simplistic and whether you agree with what he says or not you will appreciate gaining so much information in a short compass.

I’m an advocate of having all these TOTC volumes in one’s library and so I recommend this new release on Ecclesiastes 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.

Authentic Human Sexuality (3rd Ed.) by Balswick

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Judith and Jack Balswick update their textbook on authentic human sexuality from a theological perspective that has been much in use since 1999. These updates appear about a decade apart each time, but can anyone imagine the depths of societal chaos that has changed precipitously in this last decade. I’m sure this update took a great deal of work to stay up-to-date. I think you will find their approach sensitive, thoughtful, careful, and scholarly. You might think they capitulate slightly in a few places, and though they share various viewpoints, they do hold to a Christian perspective as has been acceptable in Christianity for a long time.

The book is divided into four parts. Part one is five chapters on the formation of sexuality, which will begin with sexuality as God’s good gift, then take the subject through socio-cultural aspects, all before it stands before modern developments such as the LGBTQ issue. They also cover physiological issues quite deeply and special issues. They will make you aware of the reasoning behind some of the modern theories, even if you find those theories quite subversive as some of us do. Ultimately, they do hold that Scripture presents a heterosexual union is God’s design though they are careful to espouse Christian love in dealing with individuals. (Note: I missed some key paragraphs in my initial review that makes me substantially lower my rating).

Part two looks at authentic sexuality and covers relationships, singleness, cohabitation, and marital sexuality. Part three is three chapters covering inauthentic sexuality with issues like infidelity, harassment, abuse, violence, pornography, and addiction. The final part is simply a concluding chapter on a sexually authentic society.

This textbook reads well, is thorough, and covers all the necessary subjects that this volatile subject includes in our day. Some of the material covers things that you might find awkward or unpleasant, but this book accomplishes even in our chaotic days what a textbook on sexuality from a Christian perspective must cover.

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.

Daniel (WBC) [Revisied Edition] by Goldingay

book WBC Daniel

John Goldingay is a big name in the scholarly world, and I can understand why the editors of the Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) series would ask him to revise his popular volume rather than replace it. It’s also good to see this revision since we haven’t seen many new releases from this series in quite a while. A page near the beginning shows that several volumes are now in revision or are forthcoming. Likely you are aware of how highly rated this book is to scholars while in many cases it might not be as well-loved by conservative pastors. In short, the author has not changed his overall conclusions on the Book of Daniel, but he has expanded his explanations in several cases. The page count has grown by nearly 300 pages! I’ll make it easy for you to rate this volume if you’re already familiar with the one that has been around since 1989. The perspective has not moved to the right, but the scholarly contribution has been successfully updated to the point that I see this volume holding its lofty status for several more decades to come.

I compared his Introduction in the original volume since I had it on hand and have used it several times. I do not personally endorse his viewpoint, but I felt he explained it well and, in many cases, took on more introductory issues that were even found in the original volume. He even followed the reception of Daniel through the New Testament and into later history all the way to the current time. That is a fascinating contribution, to say the least. I thought his conclusion after studying Daniel scholarship in the 20th century was that nothing changed at all during that time was quite surprising.

For you scholarly types, the bibliography has also significantly grown. He knows how to operate in the unique WBC format and his notes for scholars in every passage are extensive. He looks at structure more than some of these volumes do and the part that pastors would find most interesting still remains in the Explanation section. Sometimes his conclusion about the text or historicity leads him to places where I would strongly disagree. I don’t think this revision will majorly raise perceptions that pastors hold about this volume, but scholars are likely to give it the highest rating. Even if you don’t subscribe to all the author’s viewpoints, the book is simply too significant not to have access to for any kind of study or research on Daniel.

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 Heart of the Preacher (Books on Ministry #25)

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This book for the preacher is one of the best I’ve seen come along in a long time. Rick Reed from his own preaching experience and that of teaching homiletics knows precisely the path to the heart of the preacher as well as the deadends away from it. His mantra of the preacher preparing his soul is no hyperbole. This isn’t self-help pointers but vital issues that throb the preacher’s heart. Mr. Reed does something for preachers today that Ralph Turnbull did for others in previous generations in his A Minister’s Obstacles. Some of those obstacles are exactly the same while others are peculiar to our day and Mr. Reed knows the difference.

The book is divided into two parts, which he defines as the testing and the strengthening of the preacher’s heart, that could just as easily be called the negative and positive heart issues preacher’s face. After Brian Chapell’s foreword that is itself worth reading, Mr. Reed gives a clear introduction to what he is attempting to do. Some of the chapters include key subjects like ambition, comparison, insignificance, laziness (one of the best and not at all what you expect), fear, criticism, failure, and pain (another jewel). Part two continues at the high level he began by explaining personal soul care, championing expository preaching, developing internal security, doing the work of an evangelist, and in a timely chapter on taking care of yourself that he creatively calls “don’t kill the horse”. There wasn’t a dud in any of these 25 chapters and everything he discussed made you want to re-dedicate your efforts to the work of preaching for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Reed wrote with the humbleness that pushed his material deeper into your heart. He was never afraid to say that he struggled in some of these areas. You felt like you were listening to a brother in arms! The book is easy-to-read but never shallow. Every preacher ought to read it. I’m glad I did.

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.

Carpe Diem Redeemed by Os Guinness

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When Os Guinness has something to say, I’m ready to listen. All of his recent releases (Last Call for Liberty, Impossible People, and Fool’s Talk) have said something so needed for our day – don’t think trendy but timeless. This latest release, Carpe Diem Redeemed, which takes an old phrase meaning “seize the day” and does a play on a book from the philosophic world entitled Carpe Diem Regained takes that same sort of piercing look into our world today and pulls out how a Christian ought to think anyway. Fortunately, this book about “seizing the day” has nothing to do with the typical motivational tripe that floods the market in our day and yet says nothing. In fact, you won’t figure out the profound thing he is saying until he is finished saying it.

In presenting his thesis, Guinness must delve into and explain time from many angles. Even when you expect him to explain the obvious, he will express something that has stopped being obvious in our lives. In this first chapter alone, his introduction to time will pull in the concept of human freedom. Read it: it makes sense. His next chapter on the survival of the fastest explains time in our culture and the pressure it presents. Chapter 3 on the hidden tyranny of time is a treat. His explanation of the power of labeling should be proclaimed throughout the land. I’ve never read a better explanation of progressivism either. While he writes a book that strikes a chord with a conservative like me, he is not after a political system but a biblical view. That means he will step on any toes necessary to explain the truth.

Over the last few chapters, he will move to explaining how to “seize the day”. After he tells us the importance of understanding our times, you will be tempted to predict his final conclusion. And then you will be wrong. He will shock you and then you will agree with him and be encouraged in doing so. We don’t usually worry about spoilers for a book of this type, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise for you. Just read the book for yourself! You will be glad that you did.

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.

James Buchanan by Jean Baker

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I’ve noticed for years that James Buchanan has made many lists for being the worst president that the United States has ever had. After reading this biography by Jean H. Baker in the American President Series, I can finally understand why. I enjoy this series especially for some of these lesser-known, and forgive me for saying, less substantial presidents. This book comes in at under 150 pages and it’s exactly what I would want for Buchanan. Though I had a few duds in this series earlier, this is the second in a row that I found very well done. Baker is a good writer. She finally concludes that he is not only a bad president but a traitor, but she fairly handles his life before she springs her conclusions on you at the end. By the time she gets you there, you may agree with her.

James Buchanan had a successful life before reaching the White House. He excelled in his law career and was quite successful as a member first of the House of Representatives and later the Senate. He had some striking similarities to his predecessor, Franklin Pierce, too. They were both extremely loyal to the Democratic Party. They both came from the North: Pierce from New Hampshire and Buchanan from Pennsylvania. Finally, in an almost bizarre similarity, they were both enamored with the South. Baker speculates that Buchanan became enamored with the genteel ways of the Southerners he worked with in Congress. Considering the backgrounds of both Pierce and Buchanan, I’m bewildered at both of their unexpected loyalty to the South because they had no obvious connection. As it turns out, however, though their loyalty was similar, Buchanan made far worse blunders over the South. Had Buchanan been a Southerner, his life would have made, perhaps, perfect sense, but he was not.

As you will see in this biography, his error in Kansas was particularly egregious and hastened the Civil War. Southerners probably revered him for a while over his handling of the Fort Sumter situation, but as President of the United States, it was inexplicable. Again, had he resigned and joined the Confederacy it might’ve made sense, but to stay for the Union and make these leadership decisions brutally slays all logic. To make it worse for him, after he had made a complete ruin of the situation from the North’s point of view, the ineffective countermeasures that he finally put in place lost him the confidence of the South. He ended his career with the confidence of no one! He spent his remaining years trying to prove that his decisions were pro-Union, and even argued at times his decisions were similar to Lincoln’s, but no one believed them. Nor should they. Perhaps he meant well, but he had no foresight nor enough leadership skills for such a critical hour of history.

As is often the case, this book does not give us much to go on to determine Buchanan’s religious views. The author did, however, treat the whispers that our only bachelor president was homosexual with restraint. She fairly admitted there was never any actual evidence of that charge. Not that it proves anything, but there were a few quotes from his life that used Christian language. It was interesting to note that he did join the Presbyterian Church after he left the White House. Apparently, the Presbyterian Church’s position on abolition in the north had held him back in earlier years. After Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the discussion of abolition was less critical.

This biography is ideal though Buchanan as president was anything but ideal. He did come across as something of a prideful person as he surrounded himself with people who would just let him talk and agree with him. That probably contributed to his overall failures as well. The only good thing that I can say for him is that at least he did seem like a more likable person than John Tyler. I guess you’d call that scraping the bottom of the barrel to find the compliment! If you are on a journey to read a biography of every president, Baker is the right choice for you here because you wouldn’t want to be too bogged down on Buchanan.