Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

book grace

Jerry Bridges has a way of writing that requires you to deeply search your heart. While this volume might not be as famous as a few others he has written, it’s still a bestseller with good reason. He strives to make sure we don’t miss the amazing in grace. I preferred reading it one chapter at a time and then dwelling on what he had to say.

His first chapter on the performance treadmill pulls you in. So much of Christianity has degenerated to this unscriptural performance Christianity. He reminds us that we are so bankrupt, so spiritually bankrupt, that no amount of performance could ever get us anywhere anyway. He explains how we are legalistic by nature and how that warps our thinking. He also begins a discussion of what grace is that carries into the next chapter. There he explains who needs it. If you don’t already know, he makes it clear that you and I do. Chapter 3 discusses how amazing Grace is and chapter 4 uses a well-known parable of Jesus that Mr. Bridges entitles “the generous landowner” to further illustrate grace. That discussion continues in chapter 5 when he asked the question: does God have a right? He explains that we can never obligate God. This was one of my favorite chapters in the book.

Chapter 6 explains how we are compelled by love, not a list of “oughts”. Chapter 7 well explains how the proof of love is obeying Christ’s commandments. Chapter 8 is where Mr. Bridges connects one of the subjects he is most famous for writing on, holiness, with grace. Note the chart on page 121 too. Chapter 9 explains what true freedom is and that it springs from grace. Chapter 10 beautifully describes the sufficiency of grace while chapter 11 proceeds to remind us of the humility we should take on that subject.

Chapter 12 turns even more practical as he describes how to appropriate God’s grace. In that chapter, he describes how we must “die” to produce fruit. There’s more discussion of submitting to God in humility as well. He concludes with a chapter on the garments of grace.

There’s a nice, lengthy discussion guide added to this edition. You will want to check it out.

Reading this book just helped me decide that I need to read everything that Jerry Bridges has written. These newest editions are rather attractive, quality paperback volumes. I began this book wondering if he was even going to go too far, but he beautifully described grace and guided us between legalism and licentiousness. I don’t see how a Christian couldn’t be helped by reading this wonderful book. In fact, we would all be better off if we 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.

Satellite Bible Atlas by Schlegel

book sat b atlas

This Bible Atlas is extraordinary. I’m a Bible Atlas nut, and own most all Bible atlases in print today. Somehow, I had missed this one until now. I’m so impressed with this volume, that if I were forced to have only two Bible atlases in my library I would pick The Carta Bible Atlas for its scholarship and coverage of many Bible events, and this volume by William Schlegel for its conservative viewpoint and typography as well is its coverage.

I’ve seen some other satellite maps of Bible lands, but they are much inferior to this volume. The author here has a much better grasp of what you really need in a Bible Atlas map. The satellite imagery allows you to see at a glance the typography that plays such a part in many Bible episodes. A majority of the maps take up a full-page, which makes them the perfect size. Color, information overlays like direction of movement, and good labeling make these maps ideal.

The text follows the Bible in chronological order and gives all kinds of wonderful information. There is information about the Bible story itself in some cases, plus other topographical information, as well as some discussion of where the Bible site is located and can be found today. Because the author “takes a conservative view of biblical chronology, accepting chronological numbers given in the Bible at face value”, I’d label this volume refreshing.

In addition to the maps and text, several photographs are interspersed throughout the text. Most of the photos are by Todd Bolen, who is one of the best photographers of Bible sites today. There are so many fine maps in this book, and several of them stand out. I especially enjoyed the maps of Jerusalem overlaid upon a topographical map. Don’t miss the regional map on page 148, nor the index to major sites that will be really helpful for more in-depth study.

This Atlas succeeds on all levels! It will make for pleasurable hours and effective study. I give it the highest 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.

Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels–A Great Resource!

cd gospels

Wow! I hardly know what to say about this phenomenal collection of photographs on the Gospels. Over the years, I’ve seen attractive photos in books I have and noticed the name Todd Bolen in the photo credits. I had even heard others reference a website called BiblePlaces.com and talk about wonderful photo collections that could be purchased there. Now that I have Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels in my hands I know what all the hype was about. For the record, the hype was fully justified.

All 89 chapters of the four Gospels are covered by more than 10,000 pictures. I suppose the most common usage for this resource would be for those who want to create sharp PowerPoint presentations. For that use, there’s nothing free on the Internet that even comes close to what we have here. Putting up a slide for a sermon on some passage in the Gospels will now be greatly upgraded for those who possess this resource.

I see another use for this product that may not be as often discussed. There could hardly be a better resource for those who enjoy some visual learning mixed in. To me, there’s something incredible about seeing a picture of a Bible site for some spectacular story in Scripture. It gets my imagination fired up even more. Further, you will find photos here of cultural elements and even photos of artifacts from museums. There are some things that are simply not common in our day and culture that we need help visualizing. As an added bonus, I saw several historic photographs for those doing deep study.

I’m not as software savvy as some, but I found this resource easy to navigate. I have the disk, but saw where you can download a digital version as well if that fits your needs better. If you purchase this resource, you will be allowed to use it in teaching, preaching, and even church newsletters. If you want to use it in books, or other commercial products or websites, you can contact Mr. Bolen to set that up. Each photo has a brief note to explain what you’re looking at. Your purchase comes with free lifetime updates. Apparently, Mr. Bolen wants us to be pleased, and promises to work with anyone not completely satisfied.

One thing that really sets this resource apart is the pictures of places that are difficult to get to for the modern tourist. In other words, there are pictures here of places you will never see on the average Bible tour. I so appreciate this resource that I hope Mr. Bolen will put together future photo collections for some hard-to-find Old Testament locations (he has some of these pictures on his website). In fact, he ought to make one of those big beautiful coffee table books for Bible sites. The photos here are truly of that quality.

This is a special resource and I highly recommend it.

I received this resource 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 Week in the Fall of Jerusalem by Witherington

book week

Ben Witherington, scholar and prolific author, blazes a new trail in this work that’s quite a departure from what I’m used to by him. In this work, he still teaches as we would expect, but he uses a combination of historic fiction and scholarly sidebars into a wide array of subjects of Jerusalem at the time of its fall in 70 A.D. I would rate it as a success in its imaginative approach to that important background material.

The story begins in the smoke of Jerusalem. Though the story has fictional elements, some of the characters are actual characters from Scripture. They are older, of course, and look back on pleasant memories of the days of Christ that are already 35 years in the past. The story contained elements that I had never thought of, but that would make sense in that environment. Both the fear and the courage of the Jewish people affected are clearly displayed.

As you might imagine, the author must make some judgments on some things that are debated. His telling the story of Matthew wanting to write his gospel is a specific place where some of us might not agree. Still, this book takes material we often approach piecemeal and weaves it together in a story that makes it much more meaningful. The short blurbs, pictures, and maps dispersed throughout the text greatly enhance it.

There’s less of the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction than I predicted, and the story ends more abruptly than most fiction works, but the book is still very interesting. I imagine it will be secondary reading in some Bible history classes, as well as a help to those doing individual Bible study. I’ve read that this book is one in a series of similar books being designed by IVP. It’s educational, not hard to read, and pleasant. 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.

Israel Biblical Archaeology: A Carta Map

book archaeol israel

I wish I had had this map when I toured Israel! I can’t imagine a handier resource for either planning or touring Israel for one interested in Bible sites. With a quick glance, you can see all the archaeological sides of both the Old and New Testaments. As a bonus, you also see the sites of the Byzantine Era, crusader times, Middle Ages, and Islamic periods.

The map itself is well done in the usual Carta style. The legend used makes it obvious which period the site is from. Ancient main roads of Bible times are also added. Some modern roads are also given, but the map is never too busy. It’s eye pleasing in every detail. The areas of each of the Twelve Tribes is also highlighted with different colors, which adds another layer of information without detracting from the overall map. To the right and left of the map are columns of additional information about some of the most important archaeological sites. All of this is just side one!

Side two is a treasure trove of information for the Bible student or one touring Israel. There are several awesome Carta maps along with great information on the other side. There’s a map of the major archaeological sites in the old city of Jerusalem, one of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, one describing the economy of the Roman province of Judah at the time of Jesus, one about Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee, one of the major routes in the holy land in ancient times (exceptional), one describing Masada, another describing Herodian, and one on Quran and the Essenes. Additionally, there’s one describing the Perfume Route, another on Caesarea, one on the exile of Judah, another on Jericho, one on the Roman provinces in the First Century, and one final map on the Crusader Kingdoms of the Middle Ages.

This map is one every traveler to the Bible lands should have. While you’re at it, look up the companion Jerusalem Biblical Archaeology: A Carta Map, which is in the same outstanding style. I’m so impressed with this map and I think you will be too.

I received this map 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.

Carta’s Interesting New Releases!

book hezekiah

Here’s 3 of Carta’s 2017 releases plus a catalog title that was the first of these attractive large, educational, handy (40 pages each) volumes:

1. Understanding Hezekiah of Judah 

Hezekiah is a worthy focus of study for Old Testament students. Not only is he the greatest king after David, but he is the last great hurrah of Judah. His reforms ran the deepest, his faith was the most clearly on display, and it was all against the backdrop of the turbulent times he lived. This book brings it all alive!

Mordechai Cogan, a respected Jewish scholar wrote this volume. You may remember his name from writing major commentaries on 1 & 2 Kings in the Anchor Bible Commentary series. I may not agree with every historical conclusion he makes, but his passion for his subject is clear on every page.

You are going to love the gorgeous photos, fine graphic illustrations, and, of course, those wonderful Carta maps. He explains how Hezekiah eliminated rural altars and brought all worship back to the Temple in Jerusalem. (When Cogan speaks of the “Israelite cult” he is referring to their uniqueness in the religious world of their times).

Archaeological data and Assyrian accounts are brought in to enliven the story. What you end up with is a fascinating portrait of Hezekiah and his times that any Bible reader would have to enjoy!

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.

book samaritans

2. Understanding the Israelite-Samaritans

Fascinating! I can think of no other word to describe this book. Benjamin Tsedaka, who is an Elder in the Samaritan community in Israel, is writing as one who lives his subject. As the subtitle suggests, the portrait drawn takes us from biblical to modern times. Frankly, both ancient and modern times are fascinating.

Tracing back to the Northern Kingdom days of the Divided Kingdom Era, and being prominent in some episodes of Jesus’ ministry as well as one of His most famous parables, the Samaritans are a worthy subject of study for Bible students today.

The book begins with a general history, then gives a review of their area, and even tells where settlements of their people were. In section 4, we get a careful explanation of who the Samaritans are and who they are not. We are told of their Scriptures, the Samaritan Pentateuch, which are the only Scriptures they recognize, and the difference with the Masoretic text. Then we learn their prayers, their customs, and their way of life.

A book written by someone who believes in what they write always reads the best and that is the case here. With the incredible subject, you have the Carta maps and photos, which are the best out there! There’s nothing in print quite like 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.

book temple jesus

3. Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew

Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer are Temple Mount experts. More than scholars, they have been involved in all major excavations in Jerusalem for the last 40 years. They are uniquely qualified to tackle the subject of this fine book. In fact, Carta has already published their larger work, “The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem“.

Now they give us a volume that fits in with the attractive series of 9×12 glossy, 40-page books that Carta has been turning out over the last few years. The incredible Carta maps are used throughout, as are exceptional pictures and illustrations. I love the reconstruction drawing of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day on page 6!

This is a worthy subject as several New Testament events of Jesus’ ministry took place in or around the Temple. The first half of the book explains the Temple itself as we understand it from the Bible and archaeology. A fine, succinct overview is given.

The second half of the book more specifically discusses Jesus there. What the reader gains is a vivid picture of key Gospel events!

This is another Carta winner! No Bible reader could fail to glean from this beautiful book. 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.

book ot atlas

4. Understanding the Old Testament: An Introductory Atlas to the Hebrew Bible

Here’s the first of the gorgeous Carta glossy 40-page volumes for Bible students. Baruch Sarel wrote this little jewel filled with incredible Carta maps, pictures, and illustrations. The maps alone make the book worthwhile, but there’s so much more.

There’s an overview of each book of the OT, a description of the Ancient Near East, another of all the peoples and lands that impacted OT history, and an explanation of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the OT. From there, the story of the OT is told historically with text and well-chosen maps. The kings of Israel and Judah are described, as are the corresponding prophets.

I don’t see how a better overview of the OT could be fit in 40 pages. This would be perfect for Bible or Sunday School classes as well as personal study. Chalk this up as another highly-recommended 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.

The Twice-Told Tale by Bendavid

book twice told

Carta Jerusalem continues its trend of providing unique, interesting, and helpful titles of the type that you just can’t find anywhere else. This title by Abba Bendavid makes sense of a part of the Bible that many have trouble with and usually just overlook– the Books of Chronicles. Probably you have struggled through the multiple genealogies that begin Chronicles and the chapters that seem to repeat Kings. This book is a tool that will really enliven your studies of Chronicles and help you see why it is not a pointless repetition.

This English edition of a work originally written in Hebrew is edited and ably introduced by scholar Mordechai Cogan, who is known for his work on Kings. He explains the design of the book and how to glean the most from it. He further explains why the KJV with its more literal translation method is a good one for this project.

The book provides a collation of parallel texts to see how Chronicles compares with other texts. Those parallels are, as you would expect, with Kings, but also with other texts going back to Genesis. Its design is primarily that you can do your own study and draw your own conclusions.

This volume lives up to its press and is an outstanding asset for all students of the Old Testament. 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 Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel by Blomberg

book john reliab

This book by reputed scholar Craig Blomberg has become the leader in the field in the unique category of the historical reliability of John’s Gospel. Haven already written “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels”, Mr. Blomberg was right at home in digging deeper into the much beloved Gospel of John.

Part one covering through page 68 is what he calls introductory considerations. It includes topics such as you would find in a traditional Introduction of a major commentary, yet always with an eye to his subject of historical reliability. A skepticism in the matter of historical reliability mars many works in print on the Gospel of John today. It’s wonderful to see a book that upholds that reliability when he discusses authorship, date and provenance, sources, the relationship between John and the Synoptic Gospels, literary genre, and audience and purposes. The final part of this section discusses where he feels the burden of proof lies in what the criteria of authenticity ought to be followed by his sensible suggestion for the way forward.

Part two is a commentary of over 200 pages on the Gospel of John with a focus in every text on the historical data and why it is reliable. To my mind, that makes this short commentary a jewel. It’s a subject that might be ignored in several texts in even major commentaries on the Book of John. In our skeptical age, this commentary helps in an area of one of the strongest onslaughts against the Book of John that we face. Frankly, the value of this commentary exceeds its size.

The commentary is followed by an incredibly detailed bibliography of near 35 pages. All in all, this volume’s attractive cover and economical price makes it an all-around 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.

A Biblical History of Israel (Second Edition)

book-bible-history

Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman, well-respected scholars all, have extensively updated this book for its second edition. Apparently, the first edition raised the dander of the extreme left side of scholarship. There’s even an appendix that you might want to read first called “In Praise of Critical Thought” that addresses the misunderstandings and over-the-top criticisms leveled at the first edition. To my mind, some of these criticisms were so absurd that trying to answer them was tantamount to killing those you have already slain.

Part one covering five chapters and 150 pages tackles history, historiography, and the Bible. That section can best be summarized as explaining and refuting the worst that extreme, radical scholarship has thrown at the credibility of Bible history. For the scholar who needs that interpretive history outlined and answered, you will love that section. Others may already feel a complete confidence in the credibility of biblical history.

I found Part Two, which covers the different phases of Old Testament history in order, to be much more beneficial. In fact, these pages will make a nice reference when studying the various passages. Again, the authors laid out the scholarly attacks against the history in each of these epochs clearly and answers them. Archaeology, historical detail, the biblical text, and logic are all brought to bear to prove the point that Old Testament narratives are historically trustworthy.

The detail presented is incredible. For example, when studying the historical time period of the days of Joshua, some great detail on Jericho, Bethel, and Ai was brought out that showed some scholarly conclusions that are often crammed down our throats are not all they’re cracked up to be. Again, you will find here some fine material to reference in your studies. The book just goes through the Exile and after, meaning this history just covers the Old Testament.

This book is a more advanced biblical history of Israel than many on the market. Many other volumes just go through the material almost as a historical survey and ignores the broadsides from the critical camp. This volume respects those scholars enough to interact with their views. To handle its goal, the material is more challenging than some others. Without a doubt, though, scholars will love it.

Despite the circuitous route it must take, this volume lands at many conclusions where a more conservative student of the Scriptures would agree. It succeeds in what it sets out to do, and so is a voice to be reckoned with in the scholarly world.

 

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.