NIV Reader’s Bible

In today’s world of Bible printing and translation, there is a copy of Scripture for everyone and every need. Quite honestly, if you cannot find a Bible that matches your reading level and style and that suits your desired study interest, you would be better served to learn Hebrew and Greek and return to the original languages. However, into this world now enters a Bible that fills a void – just plain ol’ reading the Scriptures. What a concept!NIV Reader's Bible

The NIV Reader’s Bible  adds to that collection but it is like water in the desert. It is exactly what the title claims. In fact it promotes itself as being “Designed for a seamless reading experience.” It is precisely that. It has been created just to be read. There are no chapter and verse references within the text. Book, chapter and verse designations are given at the top of each page – and that’s it. The lone exception is the book of Psalms in which each Psalm is numbered but there are no verse references. The only reading assistance given in the entire Bible is in the form of paragraphs throughout the text. Textual and translation footnotes have been converted into endnotes and placed at the end of each book which also aids in the reading experience.

The text itself, of course, is the highly readable NIV which, since it is a dynamic equivalent translation, lends itself perfectly to this format. It is smooth reading without distractions to the eye – even in good sized print – 10.5 point type size.

Here’s the summation of the matter: This Bible is perfect for a Scripture Reading Plan, whichever one you may select – absolutely perfect. Nothing within the text will divert the eye of the reader. You won’t be able to do in-depth study with this Bible, but that was not the intention of Zondervan, the publisher. Zondervan wants us to Just Read It.

And, as you might imagine, from a marketing standpoint, the timing on this release is also strategic, just in time for the gift-giving season. So, if there is someone on your list who needs to just READ the Bible, this is the ideal gift.

This Bible is a must if you just want to sit down and read Scripture.

Disclaimer: The Bible was provided to me by Zondervan for a fair and honest review.

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The Gift of Heaven

Have you noticed all the books about heaven lately? To include the good, the bad and the ugly. Seems every well-known preacher or teacher with a computer, or typewriter or yellow legal pad has been producing one.The Gift of Heaven

Well, here’s another – The Gift of Heaven by Charles F. Stanley. (Next month we’ll review one by Robert Jeffress with his entry into the fray.) Stanley is the long time senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia and is well-known for his preaching and teaching ministry. The book is published by Harper Collins Publishing.

The book is beautifully done with lots of serene pictures surely intended to give the reader a “sense” of heaven. Structurally it has a study hard cover and thick glossy pages all 160 of them. Unfortunately, the contents are arranged in such a manner that almost half of the pages are taken up with short quotations on facing pages. And in many cases of actual text only half of the page is filled leaving room for the tranquil pictures. Thus, it makes for a quick and easy read.

Stanley tackles the subject of Heaven in very perfunctory manner. At times it has the feel of sermon notes put into prose. Therefore, this volume is definitely not for in-depth study. Actually it only touches the surface on the subject.

The most redeeming quality is that it would serve as an excellent gift for new believers who desire hope and assurance of their future destination. Or perhaps it would be useful as an evangelistic tool. It’s the type of book to leave on the coffee table which, in the presence of visitors, might stir up a conversation.

Bottom line recommendation: Buy it as a gift, not as a study tool.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Harper Collins Publishing for a fair and honest review.

40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline

40 Questions about Church MembershipDo you think a need or mandate for Church Membership and Discipline in the Bible? And if there is, what does it look like? Those are the questions that 40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline examines in this volume.

The book is written by Jeremy M. Kimble, PhD. Kimble is an assistant professor of theology at Cedarville College. It is another contribution to the series “40 Questions About …” You can find the complete list at Kregel Publications. I have a review of a previous volume, 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, here.

The author digs deep into the subject matter – often very deep. The volume contains an abundance of footnotes which you may or may not find helpful. In all frankness I quite often felt like I was reading a topical commentary. The majority of the contents is more theologically oriented than practical in scope.

The book opens with four general questions about church membership and discipline and then deals with the two subject areas separately. There are two concluding questions pertaining to the subject matter.

Kimble’s examination of church membership is thorough although, once again, heavily laden with theology. I found chapter 8 on the history of church membership most informative. It lays a solid foundation for the need and obligation for every believer to be an active member of a local church. The practical questions on church membership are applicable but perhaps not under the heading of practical. Nevertheless, they should be considered.

In the area of church discipline the author’s contention is that discipline within the church is severely lacking. He lays out his case in a section on “Theological Questions” in which he exegetes OT church discipline from Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5, and several shorter NT passages. He concludes this section with a historical rundown of church discipline. Unfortunately, the practical section does not contain enough down-to-earth information although, admittedly, it is not totally lacking. My preference would have been for more.

Even though the book relies heavily on theology, it is a highly useful volume. Pastors and elders will find that this book will serve them well as a handbook in these critical church subject areas.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Publications for a fair, honest and balanced review.

Pastoral Theology

There is an abundance of “Pastor” books. Pastoral instruction began way back in the first century when an author named Paul presented some pastoral instruction in letter form to two young pastors named Timothy and Titus. These letters, by the way, remain to this day the absolute best in their subject category.Pastoral Theology

Virtually all, if not totally all, pastoral instruction books on the market today contain a “how-to” operate in the pastorate. However, with this volume Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor is and What He Does, the authors attempt to take a different approach. Found in the “Introduction” is the reason for the book: “While many pastoral ministry books focus on the pragmatic how-to of pastoral ministry, rarely to they address the why of pastoral ministry.”

The authors are Daniel L. Akin (preaching and theology professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) and R. Scott Pace (Reverend A.E. and Dora Johnson Hughes Chair of Christian Ministry Associate Professor of Applied Ministry).

The title of the book is a direct indication of the contents with a heavy emphasis on theology. If a pastor needs a quick review of Trinitarian theology, go to Section One. If a pastor is weak on Anthropology, Ecclesiology or Missiology go to Section Two. If you want the heart of the book, go to Section Three: Practical Facilitation.

A couple of further thoughts – the first on structure: As I read this volume I came to the conclusion that it was well outlined before the actual text was written. There is a multitude of first, second and third lists. It is almost as if the contents had originally been presented as a series of sermons or as classroom instruction. It would be easy to reverse the process to produce a somewhat concise outline of the entire book.

The second on the stated goal: The authors have definitely achieved their indicated goal. There is a minimum of practical advice and counseling and all of that can be found at the end of each chapter under the heading of “Pastoral Principles.”

This book is strictly for pastors or aspiring pastors. If you need a quick, concise and straightforward review of some basic theology, this is an excellent volume. Undoubtedly this would make a worthwhile textbook for a class on pastoral ministry.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by B&H Academic for a fair and honest review.

Jesus the Hero

Jesus the Hero: A Guided Literary Study of the Gospels is the fourth in a series of six volumes written by Leland Ryken and published by the Weaver Book Company. You can find my reviews of the first two volumes here and here.Jesus the Hero

The emphasis with each book is a guided literary study of a particular biblical category or genre. Each volume guides the reader through a definitive training with a view towards a literary evaluation. Jesus the Hero focuses on the Gospels.

Ryken holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and is Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College and a literary expert extraordinaire. He has written over fifty books with the majority emphasis on studying the Bible as literature.

With Jesus the Hero Ryken escorts the reader on a tour of the genres found within the Gospels. I’ll speculate that only a relatively few know there is such a rich quantity of literary genres found in the four Gospels. There’s a lot more than narratives and parables. Chapter 2, a discussion of the “Biography and Hero Story,” is the beginning of what is worth a comprehensive read.

Some of Ryken’s literary analysis of the Gospels might lead the reader to think “So what?” But with some careful study and reflection, it will become apparent that such detailed analysis serves to increase one’s understanding of the life of Jesus.

One of the appealing elements of this book and the others in the series is that Ryken does not just give us some academic literary analysis. Rather, within each chapter (usually at the conclusion), he gives the reader a “Learn By Doing” exercise, where we get to put into practice the analysis he has explained. I found this to be most useful in learning what he is trying to teach. It’s worth taking the extra time to work out the problem.

If you want to deepen your understanding of the Gospels, this short volume (just 136 pages) is worth a complete study.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by the Weaver Book Company for an unbiased evaluation.

The Dawn of Christianity

One of my favorite subject areas in the realm of Christianity is history. So, when the possibility to review this volume arose, I quickly accepted. However, the book was not quite what I anticipated. Yet, at the same time, it was not disappointing.The Dawn of Christianity

Robert J. Hutchinson’s The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fishermen, Soldiers, and Prostitutes to Transform the World is definitely an interesting read. He is the author of six of books primarily concerning Christianity. He is a student of Hebrew and has a graduate degree in New Testament.

This volume has three primary areas of focus: Jesus’ Ministry, Jesus Resurrection and the Early Church. Thus, it begins with Jesus gathering those who would eventually carry on His mission and ends with the Jerusalem Council. Hutchinson fills in the details with his own narrative built on the biblical account.

What makes this book interesting is that it is more than just Hutchinson’s retelling of the story. Throughout the entire volume he weaves in archaeological, geographical and biographical information that assists the reader in developing a greater appreciation for what’s happening in the story line. Virtually every page has additional material for our cultural understanding.

The Dawn of Christianity also has extensive and beneficial end material to include a “Time Line,” a “Who’s Who,” extensive End Notes and a decent Bibliography.

This is not a scholarly work (nor was it intended to be so). Rather, it is well suited for a Bible study group or a Sunday School curriculum where discussion is encouraged. (It should require a Bible to be read side-by-side). With its wide-ranging background information, it is essential material for those who are skeptical of the Gospels and Acts.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Nelson Books of Harper Collins Christian Publishing for a fair and honest review.

Biblical Doctrine

It takes a lifetime to be able to write a volume on Doctrine or Theology. So say John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue in the Preface to Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. That’s why “We … have waited until the ‘evening hours’ of our own lives to undertake this theology volume.” For most evangelicals MacArthur needs no introduction. In short he is the pastor at Grace Community Church In Sun Valley, CA and founder and president of The Master’s Seminary. Mayhue is the Research Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary.Biblical Doctrine

The title of this volume is aptly descriptive. It includes virtually all of the areas of Biblical Doctrine or Theology. “The Introduction: Prolegomena” is an extensive discussion of the subject of theology in general answering all of the What, Why and How questions. There are also 39 Tables/Charts that catalogue and organize material into a succinct form.

The chapter that captivated my interest was the first – “God’s Word: Bibliology.” It encompasses all of the usual and expected subject areas – Inspiration, Authority, Inerrancy – but it also includes areas that are all too often neglected in many systematic theologies – Preservation, Preaching and Teaching and Obligation. These areas are well worth the reader’s attention.

Biblical Doctrine is a massive work extending over 1,000 pages when you include the extensive General Index and Scripture Index and the end. But, this is not just a theologian’s theology book. My estimation is that it is perfectly designed for the pastor yet appropriate the every Christian. It is easy to look up theological subject matter and, considering the fact that it is a theology book, it is written in a prose that the layman can easily digest. It is also helpful to note that Biblical Doctrine is written unapologetically from a very conservative theological viewpoint.

I could continue to rave about this work, but whether one is a theologian, pastor, teacher or avid Bible student, this is a volume of systematic theology that should be included in everyone’s library. If you’re going to invest in one theology volume, this is it.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Crossway for a fair and honest review.