7 Great Study Bibles


Via challies.com, here is an excellent visual presentation of seven excellent study Bibles. I personally have the ESV Study Bible and love it.

7-great-study-bibles

(p.s. Sorry for the lack of posts recently! Seminary is extra-demanding this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some more up soon!)

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Book Review Roundup: August and September 2014


Since starting seminary I’ve had WAY less time to read for pleasure (although I’m certainly enjoying my readings for class!). So most of this list is made up of books I finished prior to starting classes. But here a few of the books I read over the past few months and some brief thoughts about them. Ratings are out of 5 stars.

9781433526367Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (3 stars)

I enjoyed several aspects of this book. Wilson is a great communicator and funny at times too. I highlighted like crazy because he just says things in a memorable way many times. But the book has some issues that detracted from it in my opinion.

First, the good stuff. Wilson states that “gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.” It is “not a second conversion experience…but rather a deeper and fuller appreciation of…conversion.” What Wilson is really writing about is gospel-centrality. The gospel is or should be the center of every aspect of your life and here’s what that looks like. Wilson further defines this wakefulness to the gospel as a two-step process: be utterly broken and utterly awed. He reverently and gloriously describes Christ, his Word, and the place the gospel deserves in our lives. Very passionate stuff.

As far as the negatives go, the book seemed to have some structural issues. Every chapter (or almost every chapter) he includes a story from a friend or acquaintance to tie into his overall point. Good idea, but the stories were a lot more miss than hit for me. Many of them seemed more mystical than anything. Also, at times the chapters felt like a series of strung-together blog posts. There was a “flow” issue. Nothing too serious, but distracting nonetheless.

If you don’t mind some digging, there are nuggets aplenty to be found here!

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (4 stars) alrassanus

The Reconquest of Al-Rassan is at hand. The three hundred year golden age of the caliphate’s rule is ending, and three characters-a Jaddite commander named Rodrigo Belmonte, a Kindath doctornamed Jehane, and an Asharite poet and soldier named Ammar ibn Khairan-are caught in the middle. The world is changing and they must find their place within it.

Now, the Reconquest is just an imaginative retelling of the Reconquista of Spain. The Jaddites are Christians, Kindaths are Jews, and Asharites are Muslims. The map that’s included is basically a sliiiightly changed map of Spain. But the thin veneer of fantasy over the historical events actually works and allows Guy Gavriel Kay to place his characters in very interesting positions where ethnicity, religion, and friendship/romance all swirl together to make some very complex and interesting choices for the characters.

This was initially recommended to me for someone who enjoys George R.R. Martin’s works because (among other things) of the way they draw on the War of the Roses for inspiration. Definitely enjoyed it and considering reading some of his other works.

JOH08BH_200x1000John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology  by Buck Parsons (4 stars)

A volume of 19 essays on the life and belief of John Calvin. The purpose of this volume (as stated in the introduction on page xvi) is “best served if the reader comes to the conclusion, ‘I ought to be reading Calvin himself!'” Measured by that standard, this volume was a success for me.

Fewer names conjure up the same mixture of adoration and abhorrence as Calvin (or the eponymous theological system of Calvinism) does. It seems people are either convinced that his views are next to gospel or the worst of heresy with little grey area. Whatever your prior thoughts, this volume sketches Calvin’s personal history, character, and beliefs and invites you to consider the man himself. An excellent introduction for those wanting to know more about Calvin.

My main critique would be that the chapters were at times of uneven quality. It is hard to avoid this when you take the anthology approach and have many different authors, but it seemed that even some of the chapters that should have had a similar focus were (literally AND figuratively) on different pages. The clearest example is the five chapters that address the doctrines of Calvinism. Some of the chapters addressed what made the doctrine of Calvinism they focused on distinct (the chapters on election and perseverance of the saints) while others focused on broader theological definitions (the chapter on atonement, for example, dealt with atonement as a concept and not the distinctives of limited atonement). Finally, I found the chapter authored by John MacArthur to be less objective and balanced than the others. Hence my subtraction of a star.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (5 stars)81sMcTc4vPL._SL1500_

This book on the spiritual disciplines is a classic for good reason: Foster both equips the reader practically and encourages the reader passionately to pursue the disciplines with the ultimate goal of communing with Jesus. He constantly brings the focus back to pursuing a relationship with the living God and cautions that rote repetition of any of the disciplines is meaningless without a thirst to know God.

The chapters are divided into the Inward Disciplines (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study), the Outward Disciplines (Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service), and the Corporate Disciplines (Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration). I found myself continually challenged and stretched in the best way possible. This is a book to read slowly and savor. Time and time again I found myself setting the book down to reflect or pray. Both a helpful book to read straight-through and also to serve as a reference in the future as a refresher.

What about you? What are you reading right now or hoping to read soon? Thoughts on any of these books that I’ve read?

 

Book Review Roundup: July 2014


I was going to write separate reviews for two or three of these books but decided to combine them into one post and also throw in a few extra (but shorter) reviews that I might not have included otherwise. 

17675008Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller (4 stars)

Keller has become a warm, familiar voice to me over the past few years as I’ve read many of his books and listened to a good number of his sermons. One of his more recent offerings, “Encounters with Jesus” is to the heart what “The Reason for God” is for the mind. For those familiar with Navigator terminology, it’s like sitting down across the table from Keller and him leading an Investigative Bible Discussion with you. The book focuses on encounters Jesus has in the Gospels with several individuals and teases out theological principles, questions, and answers from these encounters, all the while revealing more and more of the character of this Jesus.

The first five chapters focus on the book of John and the last five on events from the other Gospels. Keller’s conversational prose is very easy to read and his gentle but firm counsel proves a reliable guide for the reader who is honestly skeptical (that is, actually interested in addressing doubts and not just looking to dismiss them).

Highly recommended whether you’re meeting looking to meet Jesus for the first time or perhaps looking to be reintroduced in one way or another.

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung (4 stars) 148972402

I read this book mainly because of a lot that I’d been hearing about various leaders and pastors having some conflict about the role and purpose of sanctification in believers’ lives. Tullian Tchividjian represents the “Grace, grace, and more grace!” side of the spectrum and I read his book One Way Love recently (which I reviewed here). While not denying or downplaying the role of grace, Kevin DeYoung is on the other end of the spectrum in the “debate.”

It’s unavoidable that I ended up comparing this book to One Way Love from start to finish. The verdict? This is the better book. Now, that’s not to say that Tullian’s book is bad. This is just a superior book. DeYoung is both humorous and humble throughout the book, showing in page after page that is dripping with Scripture what it looks like to pursue holiness not in order to somehow earn salvation but as a result of union with Christ.

In one sentence, he sums up New Testament ethics as: “Be who you are.”  That is, you are holy positionally because of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Now pursue that holiness each and every day.

An enjoyable and yet convicting/exhorting read.

 

The-Kneeling-ChristianThe Kneeling Christian (2 stars)

I had this book recommended to me by a few folks and was available as a free pdf online so I slotted it into my “to read” list. Among the many, many areas where I could grow in my Christian walk, prayer stands out as one that I feel I need the most help in. And so I eagerly dove into this book…but petered out pretty quick. I mainly finished it just to finish it. It was probably a combination of the style and approach of the book. Additionally, there were a few things that the author suggested about prayer that I wasn’t sure I agreed with that seemed to suggest that every time a prayer is unanswered it must be because of some fault within the prayer. Seemed like echoes of Job’s friends to me.

Now, to be fair, there were many more quotes that I actually liked a lot than ones I disagreed with. But there was enough about the book that I didn’t enjoy or connect with for me to only rate it “okay” (i.e. 2 stars).

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (5 stars)amazing-grace

The only time I had heard of William Wilberforce before reading this book was hearing a story about how when he became a Christian he felt the only way to serve Christ was to become a pastor. He went to John Newton, known for composing the hymn “Amazing Grace,”  for advice. But instead of affirming his perceived “call” to the pastorate, Newton challenged Wilberforce to remain where he was–an incredibly influential position in the British Parliament–and use that position to glorify God and benefit his fellow man.

And use that position and influence he did. Wilberforce was one of the main, if not THE main, drivers in the campaign to abolish the slave trade in England. Metaxas, the author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, argues that Wilberforce “overturned not just European civilization’s view of slavery but its view of almost everything in the human sphere…it was nothing less than a fundamental and important shift in human consciousness” (p. xv). In other words, Wilberforce is responsible for shaping the character of Western civilization! If you believe that every human being is fundamentally equal to and has the same rights as every other human being, you owe it to Wilberforce’s Christian faith and his influence on society.

That is a massive claim, especially for someone that most of us have probably never heard of. But Metaxas supports this claim and reintroduces Wilberforce to a modern-day audience. It’s a heroic story about an amazingly humble and incredibly influential individual that is masterfully told by Metaxas. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 What are you currently reading? Any suggestions or thoughts on these books I’ve just finished?