Amos (NICOT) by M. Daniel Carroll R.

I’ve been hearing that this commentary was coming for many years and it’s always been said that when it arrived it would be a good one. I’ve been reviewing commentaries for several years now and have much experience in even reading about some scholarly subjects that are beyond the scope of my personal interests. One thing is clear to me, when it comes to a detailed scholarly commentary on a book of the Bible, we are in the hands of a master in this volume.

It’s not that he takes a completely different approach to the task of writing a commentary. No, all the usual subjects are found in the introduction and what is explained in the commentary proper is within the usual parameters. It’s the deftness, proficiency, and expertise that shows up in paragraph after paragraph.

The icing on the cake is the generally conservative conclusions that are given. Sometimes you have a person who is a whiz at writing a commentary yet who concludes nonsense, but you will not find that here even though some scholarly subjects are so esoteric that you wonder why scholars even trouble themselves with it.

Instead of breaking down all the things covered in the introduction as I usually do, I’m going to skip to the chase. If you are building a first-rate scholarly library you simply must have this volume. There’s really no debate. I’ll make a prediction too: this commentary will be one of the most quoted on Amos in scholarly works for at least 25 years. Pastors will want other works too, but this is THE scholarly work on Amos now that it’s been released.

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 Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 4- Collector’s Edition

It is so wonderful to see this awesome series resumed after a delay. It turns out that a change in editorship most likely brought on the hold up, but what we loved in the first three volumes is still on hand here. I especially love the beauty and durability of these collector’s editions , but if you need to save a few dollars there is a regular edition as well. To me, the collector’s is worth the extra expense.

While the sermons here might not be quite as good as his later ones that have been long in print, they are unmistakable Spurgeon and contain much more than potential. The focus on the Cross and the call to repent and be saved is everywhere just like you’d expect from him.

Be sure to read the introduction so you can understand what they are trying to accomplish here. Every reader will have their own favorites, but in this volume it is some of the sermons from the old testament prophets that I found truly classic.there are a few where are you a crack a smile like the one on Deuteronomy 22:11 called “Linsey-Woolen Forbidden”!

The work is simply gorgeous as well there are photographs of his sermons as well as indispensable notes on every sermon. You will learn a lot of things about Spurgeon in those notes as they are impeccably researched.

They have re-calibrated this series and it will now ultimately be nine volumes. We are almost halfway there and what a jewel the set will be! Plus, it will be easier on the wallet to secure these volumes one by one as they are released and at the end what a treasure you will have!

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.

Tethered to the Cross–A New Book on Spurgeon

Maybe you are like me and already own most every book about Charles Spurgeon that has been written. At least those that are well known and have stood the test of time. Perhaps you were also like me and thought all of the most important books about Spurgeon had already been written. As it turns out, we were wrong. Enter this new book by Thomas Breimaier that makes a distinct contribution and approaches the study of Spurgeon from a heretofore untried method. He allows the sermons of Spurgeon to tell his theological biography.

Since this book is advertised as a scholarly study of Spurgeon, you might fear that that would add some amount of boredom to a book about him. Though the scholarly approach often slows down the excitement of a book, this book is saved by the words of Spurgeon himself. Spurgeon couldn’t be dull if his life depended on it!

I have never seen the terms “crucicentric” and “conversionistic” used so often in a book, and though they are so rare that they could not even pass my spellcheck, they are accurate descriptions of the essence of Spurgeon even if no one but scholar would use them. To be sure, for Spurgeon everything, and I do mean everything, is about the Cross and the need of salvation.

The book works too. You might think a book that studied Spurgeon’s preaching in terms of both style and theology couldn’t possibly share his life’s story as well. But it does. I’m not saying we have a new David McCullough here, but since it’s a biography you may already know anyway the story of a man we love is here.

The introduction discusses past works about Spurgeon and his sermons as well as describing the published sermons. Being familiar with all of those works myself, I feel this number is well done. The six chapters that approach Spurgeon both chronologically and involves the role of the Bible, his use of the text in both Old and New Testaments, and his later ministry all hold attention.

The truth is that Spurgeon was not a master expositor like, say, his contemporary Alexander McLaren, but he was likely the greatest preacher of the gospel we have ever known. His sermons will always remind us to magnify Jesus and never fail to call on the hearer to receive Christ now. Every preacher in the world needs a dose of Spurgeon and every listener needs a dose of such preaching. Yes, Spurgeon was tethered to the Cross and that’s worth reading in a world unmoored from 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.

Nahum (ZECOT) by Daniel Timmer

It’s great to see this important commentary on the largely unknown book of Nahum finally get released. You will find here a finely constructed commentary that can help you on several levels. To me, it presents the fruits of scholarship at their best allowing the careful Pastor or Bible student to unearth real nuggets.

These earliest releases of the ZECOT are largely to be found in the Minor Prophets. That could be because they are shorter books and commentaries can be completed sooner, but whatever the reason, these same prophets are ideal for the ZECOT format. Don’t be scared away by the terms discourse analysis or structure because here the scholar is plying his trade to get at theme and purpose. In that vein, you can walk away from these pages with tangible help. To scholars themselves, I don’t see how this volume could be ranked anything other than a success.

This work is conservative and finds its place among believing scholarship. On the first page of the introduction we read, “Nahum’s message has rich significance for contemporary audiences in light of its ongoing fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” I knew I was going to like the book at that point, and continuing to look through it, that assessment never wavered. The weaving of the historical context into both the introduction and the commentary was outstanding as well as the theological implications and structure that is drawn out. You might read this and draw some different conclusions, but this commentary will help you not miss what is important to work out your own understanding. This book impresses me with its big-picture conclusions, but the finer points of detail appear well done as well and will provide help with those hard to understand phrases you encounter.

The author seems comfortable in the format of this series. It works as one of the very best single volume commentaries on Nahum. I highly recommend this commentary on a fascinating book of scripture that most of us know so little about.

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.

Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (ESBT) by Morales

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This title by L. Michael Morales is my first foray into the new Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (ESBT) series. Coming from the same publisher (IVP) as the highly-regarded NSBT series, it takes a different aim. Rather than narrowly focused topics that shine incredible light onto a precise point (NSBT), this series (ESBT) takes steps to re-approach with the same depth greater swathes of theology. Such synthesis is a refreshing onslaught that I applaud.

As for this title itself, I judge it an all-around success. If you read widely in theology, you will see that the Exodus motif crops up often. The average Bible reader never gets past the Exodus in Moses’ day but “exodus” is an exquisite painting of redemption that shows up throughout Scripture and provides a big picture understanding of the overall theme of Scripture. You can imagine, then, just how profitable a study like Morales delivers here can be.

The book is in three parts: the historical Exodus out of Egypt, the prophesied second exodus, and the New Exodus of Jesus. The historical Exodus is presented thoroughly and with great insight. The second part uses the Prophets to highlight the Exile and the exodus from the Captivity with equal skill. As it should be, the book climaxes with Jesus in the ultimate exodus. I gained many points of understanding in this volume but the big picture was always in view.

This book is a great help and encourages us to believe we might be having a real barn burner of a series taking off here!

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.

Joel and Amos (TOTC) by Hadjiev

This latest replacement volume in the time-tested Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series tackles the two important minor prophets of Joel and Amos. While this title follows the format of all the recent replacement volumes in the series, it runs substantially more toward academic concerns than pastoral ones. I fear that this volume might not be as precisely aimed at the target audience of this series as usual.

The author’s previous work on these prophets have been about their composition and redaction. He seems to see the genre as the key to understanding. To be honest, it colors the whole work. Even the introduction dives straight into structural patterns without even an introductory paragraph! Other works in this series address these issues but they do not become as overarching as here. When you think genre is so important and then conclude that these prophets have mixed genres you inevitably will have interpretative issues in several passages. You will notice that throughout the commentary proper as you are introduced to all kinds of good information but sometimes the sum of the parts is substantially less than all the parts you get.

In no way has the author failed to put substantial study behind this work. I don’t want to be overly critical, but his bibliography leans toward much more critical works. I wish more conservative studies and commentaries were better represented.

To be fair, if you were a young scholar trying to wrestle with these particular issues that he stresses you might love this commentary. I even think that if the author were to write a commentary in another series that is aimed primarily at scholars and the issues that currently have captivated the scholarly world, he would probably deliver a highly rated work. On the other hand, I will have to remove a star for pastors and Bible students who would be more interested in what the text means, whom I also envision this series to be produced for. If you are a scholar, you can add the star back.

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.

Canon, Covenant and Christology (NSBT) by Matthew Barrett

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At this point, with the multiple titles available in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, you know you’re going to get something that is at once interesting and theologically weighty. I’m sure the editorship of D. A. Carson contributes to that ongoing quality. In any event, this latest title by Matthew Barrett is as outstanding as any in the series. It’s strong stance on the divine inspiration of Scripture makes it run against the grain of most modern literature, but also makes it of even more value.

To be sure, looking at the Scriptures from a Christological perspective was a brilliant idea. This book reaches the heights that the whole idea suggests to those who love the Bible.

Though this work focuses mostly on Jesus in the Gospels and what we see there about Scripture, it’s impact is even greater. The first chapter reminds us of both the overall importance and perfect credibility of divine inspiration. I particularly enjoyed the comments about Sensus Plenior. The next chapter weaves together critical ideas like progressive revelation, word – act-word revelation, and the covenant. You will not have to agree with every idea about the covenant to be profoundly blessed by this chapter.

Next, the book dives more into the details found in the gospels. There’s a chapter on the Matthean witness, one as a case study on the Word made flesh, one about the idea of living by every word from the mouth of God as found in each of these books, one on the Johannine witness, and a final concluding chapter that takes these issues and discusses their importance to the future of doctrinal studies.

I can’t think of a dud in this series, at least among those that I have looked at, but mark this one down as one of the best!

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 (KEL) by Spencer

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This latest entry in the Kregel Exegetical Library by Aida Besancon Spencer is another solid entry in the series. I had heard before the book came across my desk that perhaps the theme presented would be focusing on the poor. That seemed like a stretch for sure, but when you actually dig into the book something much more helpful emerges. The author finds four themes in the book of James: how to deal with trials, how to be wise or have wisdom, how to view riches, and what she calls “a fourth unifying thing – becoming doers of the word and not hears only”. She is sensitive to the poor throughout, but that was a simplistic synopsis of this work. The book of James is clearly much about the four themes that she outlines and that sheds light as we read.

The introduction wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. On authorship she holds the conservative position that this James is the Lord’s brother. She develops grammatical points and word choices that help explain the overall message. She examines early church traditions about the letter James. She goes through the history in a sufficient manner. One of her best contributions is how she takes scholarly criticism against James as the Lord’s brother and knocks them down one by one in vivid fashion. In the section on structure, she explains those themes I mentioned above and how they lead to an understanding of James.

The commentary section is truly helpful. Words are carefully described. There is no doubt that one of this scholar’s strengths is grammatical explanation. The exposition is solid and homiletical hints are given. A word I might use to describe this book is “fresh”. Of course it addresses what other commentaries look at in James, but it gets beyond the tired repeating that is starting to show up in some works. When a scholar seems to be in love with the book they write about, the commentary is always better. That is the case here.

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.

It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way by Lysa Terkeurst

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It came as an anonymous gift. I’d heard people speak of this book by Lysa Terkeurst but always assumed it was a book written specifically for women. To be sure, the author is extremely popular among Christian women, and while the book might be written in a style that would appeal to that market, it has something to say to any of us.

The value of the book might be commensurate to your own level of current tragedy. As it turns out, I’m in some of the darker days of my own life and could relate to the author on so many levels. She shares her story, but her message is not pigeonholed to her exact circumstances. All it takes to find value in what she says is to be at a place where life seems completely turned upside down and the view forward is unclear.

Had I read this book, say, a year ago I might have thought it was a little over the top. Perhaps she was a little too raw and let us into her turbulent, almost ugly emotions as they zigged and zagged and rose and crashed even lower repeatedly. Then, I walked that treacherous road myself and wondered if she had been spying on me. Being a guy I held it a little more together in front of everyone else than her, but my emotions on the inside were as messy and even shocking to me as hers were to her.

I will take her at her word that she was completely the victim of what had happened to her, though if she even had any blame somewhere I don’t think it would have changed the message of the book any. I could still relate to her book though my story was different. I was at once a perpetrator and a victim. I had the additional wrestling of trying to figure out before the Lord where the line between the two was. The book still spoke clearly to my heart.

Still, I could feel inside my own heart some of the same feelings she so vividly exposed in her own. The shock. The shame. The exasperation. The uncertainty. The unclear trek ahead. She had had a writing and public speaking ministry that was probably most popular to married Christian ladies and now her own marriage had fallen apart. I was a pastor who loved the ministry beyond description and the walls came tumbling down. Then there are all the other ripples and currents that go to so many other areas of life.

Sometimes I got the feeling she was writing to herself and we were just eavesdropping. Maybe that’s why the book works so well. It’s more about principles that a Christian must wrestle with when life gets completely topsy-turvy. It’s like things you know, but you need the strongest reminder. It’s like things you would have told people in the past, and now you have to tell yourself every moment. I appreciate that she never presented herself as this perfectly packaged Christian who had it all together and was just facing each blow with perfect faith and fortitude. No, it was almost touch-and-go, but a constant bottom-line Christianity that knew there was nowhere to go but to the Lord. She got past worrying about how to understand Him or what He was doing, but just to continue going to Him. And, yes, a faith that realized that the Lord loved her and though she was going a road she despised traveling, somehow, though maybe not in this life, Christ would only take her closer to Himself. There comes a time in life when platitudes won’t do. Those words that could roll so easily off the tongue in a sermon or a discussion without a moment of thought are exposed for all the uncaring that is behind them.

Instead of that tripe that fills the thousands of pages of regurgitated Christian self-help books, she reminded us that the Christian life is a battle, that we are dust, that we are broken, and that a bunch of horrible things really could work together for good in the Lord’s hands.

She made no promises she couldn’t keep. Neither to herself, nor to we who read her book. She still didn’t know how things would turn out and neither do we. There simply is no help until we can figure that out. There are things we can’t control and there are outcomes we can’t produce.

She also refuted the lie that if we can just survive this round of trouble all will be well. On the heel of her family tragedy came the dark blow of cancer. Weakened by the first onslaught she had nothing left to face the second one. Our problems may not go away. The next problem, itself large and scary, may come before we’ve had a chance to heal and strengthen from the first one. Perhaps we’ve overlooked that aspect of Job’s story in Scripture.

So what was the good thing that she had to say besides the spiritual nuggets mentioned above that may be more dreadful to realize than to never have thought about them? Well, it certainly wasn’t a three-, five-, or ten-step program to cancel our tragedy. That would have been too simple anyway, wouldn’t it have been? You may not like the answer. She may not like how I will summarize it. But it is the only answer there is. Trust. Live closely nestled up to Jesus. Expect more possibly. And when it comes, trust. Live closely nestled up to Jesus. It may be as hard to do tomorrow as it was today. Still, trust. Live closely nestled up to Jesus. This is all there is. This is all we need. Trust because we will someday see how He worked it all out. Live closely nestled up to Jesus because that’s the only way to survive the journey until then. It is what we were always meant for anyway.

THANK YOU to whoever sent me this book! I’m sincerely grateful.

Brownlow North: His Life and Word by K. Moody Stuart

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Besides hearing of a sermon or two that he had written, Brownlow North was unknown to me. That didn’t scare me away from this biography, however, because Banner of Truth has a knack for printing biographies of people lesser known but incredibly inspiring and instructive to come to know people. You can count on them as well to print an attractive hardback volume, and this one continues that commendable trend. The biographer, K. Moody Stuart, a minister himself, was clearly enamored with North and wrote as if he were in awe of him.

Mr. North was an unusual personality. I can’t think of another biography I’ve read with his precise set of traits. He was an incredibly humble man. As I read through the biography, I kept feeling that Mr. North thought less of himself than we did. He was a gentle, reflective man who fully gave his life to Christ.

Later in the biography you will see that he worked with and appreciated D. L. Moody in an place where some failed to appreciate Moody’s work. By the time you get that far in the biography, that’s exactly what you would expect of Mr. North. It is so clear that he was consumed with a love for souls. His sermons would never have had the polish of some of his more famous contemporaries, but he clearly had the Holy Spirit upon him when he preached the gospel. He may have been unique, but you will probably think as I did how wonderful it would be to have a bunch more like him today.

The biography is written in an older style but is still easy to read. There might be a place where too many of his letters were reprinted, but the author felt that was required to draw a fuller portrait of the man. This biography might not be at the caliber of one of Iain Murray’s biographies by the same publisher, but it is a wonderful work that I highly recommend.

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.