Faith and Reason by Henri Blocher

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Henri Blocher is a respected theologian who delivers here what he calls “a primer on apologetics”. Though I would disagree with him on a few points, he gives much wonderful fodder for the tension between faith and reason. His style reminds me in some degree of C. S. Lewis. He has a knack for making some deep concepts understandable. This is my first encounter with Mr. Blocher, but rank him as a voice worth considering in the area of practical apologetics.

Chapter 1 is something of a historical survey that describes where we’ve come from and where we are today. He makes clear how reason has become in conflict with Scripture. He even explains that many of us feel fatigue because we are required to use reason every day. In chapter 2 he exposes rationalism to the light of Scripture. That entails explaining what rationalism is and how its use can never be free of assumptions. He ends the chapter with explicit explanation of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Chapter 3 is outstanding as he tackles the rationalistic belief that the Bible is a nebulous book twisted to say whatever the current user wants it to say. That leads to a discussion of the biblical text itself and its trustworthiness. The middle of this chapter is extraordinary in its explanation of the rationalist’s presuppositions that are brought into their conclusions. They see redaction and other things that undermine the trustworthiness of the text because of their own presupposition to reject it. In other words, they present a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Chapter 4 discusses what modern science is, and how a misunderstanding of what it is partly explains why it is so antagonistic to faith. In chapter 5 he disallows the conclusion that scientific research has positively concluded the Bible to be in error. I can’t follow him in what appears to be his belief in theistic evolution, or in his explanation of the reality of miracles in how he still downplays a few of them himself, but still there is much food for thought even in that discussion. I can agree, though, with him and his conclusion that the believer is not to press for miracles because the Lord only uses them on occasion to confirm his message.

At only a little over 100 pages, I imagine this is just right for what many people may want to ponder the dilemma that divides faith and reason. I think everyone would be helped by interacting with what is said here, so I recommend this volume warmly.

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.

Embodied Hope by Kelly Kapic

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Kelly Kapic dives deep into the theology of suffering in this fine volume. There’s nothing of glib, overly-generalized platitudes, or fluff to be found in its pages. There’s no attempt to dissect suffering in a dry academic way either. No, this book probes what the Bible actually teaches on the subject of suffering that interacts with all our lives in some way.

Though there is starting to be a sizable body of work on suffering in print today, this work can qualify as a theological work. That is not to say, however, that it lacks heart at all. In fact, the author was probably the perfect candidate to pen this book. On the one hand, he is a trained theologian, while on the other hand, his wife has faced incredible suffering. Having already survived cancer, she has also lived with connective tissue disease as well as Erythromelalgia, or “man on fire” syndrome. As you can imagine, the author struck the right balance between heart and head as he wrote here.

The book itself is divided into three main parts. In part one, he examines the struggle itself. He admits that we can have hard thoughts about God in times of profound suffering. Along the way, he explains how important lament is to suffering despite people’s preference for the stiff upper lip. In describing our questions that come with pain, he exposed our tendency to jump back and forth between self-praise and self-condemnation. Of course, neither are the sole answer. He also explained how we should be mindful of our mortality and how that might be tied up in the things we learn in suffering.

In part two, he tackles what he calls “the strangeness of God”. With skill, he takes us to Jesus Christ and His cross. In the final section, he makes worthwhile practical conclusions. I was enlightened as I read.

This book has already been recommended by several people who have our ear on the subject of suffering. For example, Joni Eareckson Tada, who herself has written much on pain, says she loves this book.

Whether to put on your theological shelves, or to help you wrestle in life’s dark moments, I recommend this book as a winning effort.

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.

An Unhurried Leader by Fadling (Books on the Ministry #18)

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I needed this book. So many leadership books offer up the same, though slightly retreaded, message of so many others, but this book is food for the soul. It’s the best book for pastors, or any in a leadership position, that I’ve read in a long time. There’s no gimmicks here to manipulate people, just a call to commune with God to the point He imbibes your work with His grace.

In a day where so many speak of effectiveness, Fadling prefers that we look at fruitfulness instead. He unearths the often-buried scriptural truth that fruitfulness comes from abiding in Christ. If the Lord makes you fruitful, you will influence others and the task of leadership is fulfilled. He makes it all sound so simple while the work of communing with God is at once challenging and the very opposite of work. If that sounds confusing, just read the book.

He begins by asking us to be unhurried leaders who stop seeing activity as productivity. He exposes the subtle pride that we often present as spiritual leadership. He explains our blind spot of working for God instead of with God. He challenges us to lead from abundance–a concept we frankly don’t get. He gently scolds us to stop running from the thirst of our souls to unquenching activity.

There’s so much more. The chapter on prayer is the most insightful I’ve read in years. More than being condemned as most prayer treatises, I want to implement what he says.

Outstanding is an understatement for this book. 5-star plus gets a little closer. I hope many will read and follow and be helped as I was!

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 the New Testament:Essays on Methods and Issues

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Here’s a collection of 22 essays on issues involved in New Testament interpretation. This collection boasts a host of highly-respected scholars including Peter Davids, David Dockery, Darrell Bock, Grant Osborne, George Guthrie, Craig Blomberg, Robert Stein, Gary Burge, John Polhill, Thomas Schreiner, and several others. I view this book as a superb secondary text on New Testament hermeneutics. Keep this book nearby to your chosen hermeneutics textbook and you will find the extra help that you need.

Part one is an introduction that contains the first two essays. The first one on authority, hermeneutics, and criticism by Peter Davids is quite provocative. Though I cannot agree with every statement he made, I couldn’t help being instructed by what he shared. The second chapter provides a fine historical survey of New Testament interpretation.

Part two contains essays 3-8 covering the basic methods in New Testament interpretation. All told, textual, source, form, redaction, literary, and sociological criticism are all covered in turn. Though I am skeptical of the value several of these critical methods, I find these essays outstanding in explaining what each of these criticisms are. Whether we agree or not, these critical methods play such a part in the modern scholarly world that we must at least grasp what they mean. Though these authors may find more value here than I do, they still write in a conservative vein.

Part three is the largest section and contains essays 9-22. Highlights include an explanation of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament and another chapter on discourse analysis. Beginning in essay 13 several of the following chapters cover the literary genres of the Scripture. To my mind, these are some of the most difficult elements of hermeneutics and are a place where we can use help. I appreciated the final essay on New Testament interpretation and preaching by Richard Wells that reminds us that the task of interpretation is to lead us to the sermon.

Again, I feel this book quite valuable to have in your hermeneutic library. As I said before, I do not see it as a first choice for a hermeneutics textbook, but as an outstanding aid for extra reading in areas we find difficult to understand. It’s refreshing to have a conservative resource for such help. I think you ought to check out 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.

Dictionary of Christianity and Science

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When you pick up this attractive hardback “Dictionary of Christianity and Science”, edited by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman, Christopher Reese, and Michael Strauss, your first thought will be to wonder if it can live up to its subtitle “the definitive reference for the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary science”. To my mind, it was a boast that turned out to be true.

That’s not to say, that you will agree with everything you read here. Fully conservative views are well defined, but in the interest of providing a comprehensive resource other views are as well. Since evangelical Christianity is not in full agreement on these subjects, you will discover here are all the opinions out there. If you do either theological or apologetic reading, you have already noticed the debate on its margins with science. In our post-Christian age, this is no time for trite platitudes. This resource helps us understand and intelligently discuss at the very point where so much of modern society is attacking Christianity.

The entries given are of three types. Some are short introductions intended to give an overview. There’s longer entries called essays that attempt to give a larger picture. Finally, some oft-debated subjects are given what they call multiple-view discussions. In these cases, scholars of varying opinions make their strongest case. That type of debate can be most instructive.

The range of topics covered almost anything I could think of regarding faith and science. Whether it was common terminology or less common scholarly jargon, you will find it here. You will find scientific terms, hot button issues of our generation, prominent movements and people, and some things I imagine you’ve never heard of before. There’s various creation/evolution theories, the Flood, fossil records, bioethics, and even climate change from various viewpoints.

I could easily see myself in the future reading an article and coming to an obscure concept or the element of debate I was a little rusty on and grabbing this book to get a grasp of what I was reading. This book has clearly found a niche missing in other Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias. This fine volume succeeded in what it set out to do and I think it’s an all-around winner. I predict it will be the go-to volume of its kind for many years.

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.

Paths to Power by A.W. Tozer

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I’m one of those people who find A. W. Tozer to be an incredibly challenging writer. Having always loved his more famous books, I’m enjoying discovering his lesser-known titles published by Moody Publishers including this little gem called Paths to Power. It’s a small book that you could probably read in one enjoyable sitting, though its thoughtful paragraphs might call for a slower perusal.

This title is subtitled “Living in the Spirit’s Fullness”. As you may know, that’s a prevalent subject and Mr. Tozer’s writings as he laments the anemic state of Christianity in a way few writers do today. Chapter 1, entitled “Power in Action”, describes the deadness of our day and our bizarre acceptance of it. Chapter 2 gets quite doctrinal on us as he says, “God cannot do our repenting for us”. You’ll find a lot to think about in that chapter. The third chapter discusses “The Fruits of Obedience” and how we have removed the idea of obedience from our lives by mistakenly describing it as a works-salvation approach.

Chapter 4 takes the famous text of Hosea 10:12 explains how miracles follow the plow. Chapter 5 discusses doctrinal hindrances while chapter 6 explains how power comes through the “Out-poured Spirit”. To get a feel for the flavor of this book you should read where he says, “another thing that greatly hinders God’s people is a hardness of heart caused by hearing men without the Spirit constantly preaching about the Spirit.” See what I mean? Chapter 7 is a concluding chapter that discusses the relationship between unity and revival.

As always, you can’t go wrong with A. W. Tozer and I highly recommend this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Announcing My New Book:Following Jesus Through The Gospels

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I’m excited to announce the release of my latest book Following Jesus through the Gospels. The Gospels have been a favorite of mine and the material in this book has been things I’ve studied over the last 10 years. There’s more charts than text in this volume and its designed for the busy person who needs a lot of information in a short read. It’s also designed to be small enough to easily tag along with your Bible.

In this book you will find a brief overview Harmony of the Gospels as well as an outline of the stages of Jesus Christ’s ministry. You will have a complete numbered Harmony of the Gospels that includes all the miracles, parables, personal encounters of Jesus, sermons of Jesus, private discourses of Jesus, cries of Christ on the cross, and Resurrection Appearances. Separate charts for all of the above are included for deeper study.

The final section of the book makes a special synthesis of the birth and infancy of Christ, the Upper Room and Gethsemane, the trial of Jesus Christ, the Crucifixion, and Resurrection Appearances. Perhaps you have seen my “Synthesis of the Crucifixion” that’s shared on this blog here. The others are designed similarly.

If you have interest in checking out this book in either paperback or a Kindle edition, check out the Amazon link below:

Amazon listing

Recommendations

This book is a great tool any student of the Bible needs in their toolbox. I’ve used many books that give Gospel parallels, but this is by far the most user friendly. The addition of geographical information makes this book especially wonderful, as combining the geographical information together gives new and improved understanding of the context of many of Jesus’ sermons and parables. The information is laid out in very easily understood tables that will make studying out common threads through the Gospels much easier. This reference book will be coming off the bookshelf on a regular basis, I can promise that.

Pastor Tom Otto

This book is a result of much careful study of the Gospel Records and is evidence that the author loves to study God’s Word. He answers many questions that most Bible students have had about geography and the harmony of the accounts of our Lord’s ministry. I really enjoyed the charts and notes that synthesized the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. This book is an excellent resource for all students of the Bible.

Pastor Jamin Boyer

This short volume is packed full of helpful charts and list. The research and study involved in this work are a credit to the author and his team. This is solid choice for any serious student of the life of Christ.

Pastor Mike Montgomery

Jimmy Reagan has done a wonderful job of compiling a great deal of information in a very concise format. The charts make this volume extremely useful. I believe it will serve as a good quick reference for those who are serious about studying the life of Christ.

Dr. Scott Pauley

Pastor Reagan is one of the most well-read ministers that I have ever been around. For many years in my own ministry I have gleaned from his wisdom and study. Following Jesus through the Gospels is a culmination of years of study on the life of Christ. In this valuable book, he harmonizes the events of the Gospel records and presents the information in usable chart form. You can now see various aspects of the Gospel records on one page at a time. This is treasure for any student of God’s Word and a handy resource for all preachers.

Pastor Mark Fowler

This book will prove to be most helpful for anyone studying through the life of Christ. It is loaded with information that is able to be both quickly accessible and easily understood. You will find it more study guide than book, but its affordable price and handy size, make it a great companion to scripture while reading through the gospels.

Pastor Allen Gibson

Pastor Reagan shows the ability to simplify the most challenging of topics in this chart filled book. There is no more vital topic for understanding than the life of Jesus Christ! I remember when the topics were first taught and put into chart form; they helped me and they will help you.

Pastor Ryan Brown

 

Following the Party Line

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Are you a faithful follower of the Word of God or are you a supporter of the party line? In the first case, you’re a pursuer of Christ, and in the other you’re a partisan following the group. I suppose I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe he or she followed was the former rather than the latter. But the far-ranging views out there today proves more are a hanger-on of a particular religious group than they would like to admit.

Though my background is in the Baptist world, I’ve seen this plague many denominations and groups. To make the problem even worse, many groups splinter into several smaller groups with their own unique set of beliefs. While we might find the presence of sin in our world as the cause of this problem, we should still pull ourselves away from it and go ever back to the Bible.

This problem begins innocently enough. At some point, we try to draw our beliefs from the Bible. Because the Lord has designed that we live in the local church setting as a group, we will also at some point decide what we believe together. So far, so good. But something changes after a time. We fall into the lazy habit of just believing what the group does. We reason that since they sought the Bible in the beginning they can always be trusted to follow the Bible now. Then, another problem arises. New issues arise that we hadn’t thought of, or at least hadn’t thought of how to make an application of the Scriptures to it, and so we specify exactly what we mean to keep our original set of beliefs.

Again, the whole process is one of well-intentioned purposes, and yet we get off track. Our current set of beliefs have been revised several times since our original digging into God’s Word. We now are 2 to 3 steps away from the Bible while thinking we are still firmly in its boundaries.

I’m quite the inferior carpenter, but have been around the process enough to know one mistake we shouldn’t make. If we are going to need several boards of the exact same dimension, we should carefully measure out the first one and cut from it. When I was a boy, I can recall my Daddy taking a pencil and making a mark on the carefully measured board to distinguish it from the others. I can remember from way back then that he told me not to pick up the boards cut from the original to cut other boards. Though it technically should have been the same dimension, he told me it’s easy to get off more and more by that process. I believe this is what we have done in our Christianity.

As you may have noticed, groups tend to get defined by their unique differences rather than what they have in common. That perspective incurs great cost for Christianity. If the error was not bad enough, the Christian divisiveness is catastrophic. Because of our warped egos and general depravity, we fight for those differences, at times, even more than we do for the great trues that we hold in common, such as, the death, the burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As is often the case, we judge each other by the wrong board. We become quite bombastic, cry separation, and criticize our brothers or sisters in Christ relentlessly. In many cases, we are convinced that we are standing for the Word of God. Our motives likely began as a desire to faithfully follow the Bible, but now the results are far below the motives.

We would all do well to stop and ask ourselves when was the last time we checked the Bible for our deeply held beliefs. To be sure, we must carefully check those Bibles as our casual reading just regurgitates without thought was someone else decided we believe the long time ago. If you haven’t carefully verified the beliefs you loudly proclaim, then put yourself down in the category of one who spouts the party line. When you spout that party line, you are saying that where the belief came from doesn’t matter as long as the party says it is correct. Why does what scares us in politics not even phase us in our own Christianity?

If we allow ourselves to follow the party line, we are only sycophants carrying someone else’s opinions. Even worse, if we attack and criticize where they tell us to, we are their henchmen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a mere follower of the party line when I have the opportunity to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt

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Mr. Vanderstelt is on to something. We are not fluent with the Gospel. As he strives hard to point out, a lack of gospel fluency is far worse than a little broken English. The stakes are so much higher. Getting the directions wrong to a tourist site because of ineffective language is of so much less consequence than getting wrong the directions to God because we don’t know how to talk about the Gospel.

This book is written for broad appeal among Christians. In other words, the net is cast all the way to the edge where the newest Christian lives, and yet is still meant to reach longtime Christians on the other side. Though that means some pages might seem to be on an elementary level, all Christians can be challenged.

The book is in five main parts. The first part explains what gospel fluency is and how so much of our attempts to speak to others lacks the Gospel. In a nutshell, if we don’t give them Jesus, we don’t give them the Gospel. I loved how he explained that even as Christians we like to speak the gospel to ourselves and really deal often with unbelief. He says a few shocking things like: “I have met too many people who love their Bibles yet have no genuine relationship with Jesus Christ”.

The second section is about the Gospel itself. In three chapters, he reminds us of what the Gospel is and how powerful it really is. Some of that is basic as many of his readers may not even have a fundamental understanding of the Gospel, but anyone will enjoy when he illustrates how wonderful it is. Part three covers the Gospel in me in three chapters. Don’t miss the chapter “Fruit to Root” as it had outstanding insights.

Parts four and five covered in six chapters attempts to take what we have learned and make it practical. His discussion of the importance of listening is a great reminder.

The book is easy to read. The only fault I found with it, and it is only a personal preference on my part, is that he illustrates too often with discussions that he had with people where he gave them great answers. While that strikes me as a little too self-promoting, we might remember that, in his defense, he might feel the need for us to know that he practices what he preaches.

The book is a success in the sense that it makes me remember that I need to put the Gospel so much more into my conversations with people. I pray the Lord will help me to do much better.

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 World’s Oldest Alphabet by Douglas Petrovich

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This book is one paradigm-shifting title. Douglas Petrovich is a diligent scholar who is considered an expert in “epigraphy, palaeography, lexicography, and comparative linguistics and literature”. The scholarly world has been in an ongoing debate for many years over what language has the world’s first alphabetic script. Mr. Petrovich has worked through the ancient specimens that we have with their proto-consonantal script and has proven conclusively that it is Hebrew. He has even translated these previously untranslated specimens. That the highly-respected scholar Eugene Merrill has studied his work and given it the highest recommendation proves its trustworthiness.

The beautiful thing about this new book is the boon this it is to those of us who believe in the complete veracity of the Bible. I don’t mean it’s a substitute for faith, but that it is another help to doubters. A quick Google search will show you that several major news organizations have already carried stories on Mr. Petrovich’s work. While many of us so appreciate this book, it will probably be something like a bomb going off in the scholarly world where so many do not believe the Bible they study. Going forward, all doubters should be sent to this book.

Though this book has all the necessary minute data to prove its thesis, non-specialists like me can still follow the argument. He well presents the history of what has been thought over the years and carefully outlines what he went through to reach his conclusions. He is not just pulling his conclusions out of the sky. No, he put an incredible amount of work into solving this long-standing puzzle.

The book itself is attractive and has the design of other fine Carta Jerusalem titles. The maps and illustrations are outstanding and really help you to follow what Mr. Petrovich is saying. This book will be discussed for many years and will likely reach the status of one of the most important volumes ever in its field. 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.