The Spurgeon Study Bible

It can be safely assumed that 99.44% of the people reading this review know the reputation of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. One could well argue that he was the most prolific preacher and writer in the history of the Christian faith. So it was inevitable that eventually a publisher would produce a “Spurgeon Study Bible.”The Spurgeon Study Bible

Voila! Holman Bible Publishers has taken that step. And it is a classy production! In a publishing world awash in “Study Bibles” (We have another “Study Bible” waiting in line for our next review), this one is a unmistakable standout. And to add to its exclusivity, Alistair Begg was employed as the editor. Begg is the Senior Pastor of Parkside Church not far from Cleveland, OH and the progenitor of Truth For Life.

The Spurgeon Study Bible is done in the newly minted (2017) Christian Standard Bible (CSB) also published by Holman. Format wise it is virtually identical to other Study Bibles – book introductions (which include a section concerning Spurgeon’s thoughts on the book), maps, concordance, and notes at the bottom of the pages. But it is this last which makes this so special. All of the notes are from Spurgeon’s writings making it a goldmine of reference material. If you want to know what Spurgeon though about Genesis 1 and 2, go there and the notes are before you. And, of course, excerpts from the “Treasury of David” are waiting for you in the Psalms.

Other features include a brief biography of Spurgeon written by Begg and twenty of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon (ten from the OT and ten from the NT). These are well presented with Spurgeon’s original handwriting and a clean transcription appearing on facing pages. Preachers will find it interesting how Spurgeon’s mind worked.

Also included is an introduction to the CSB providing the translation philosophy for the CSB. It’s worth the read.

This is a Study Bible for all believers. Everyone will be blessed and enriched by this volume. If you love the writings of Spurgeon, this is a must for your desk. My copy is sitting within an arm’s reach.

Disclaimer: This Bible was provided to me by Holman Bible Publishers for a fair and honest review.

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Evidence That Demands a Verdict

Do you remember 1972? If you do, there’s an excellent chance you are in possession of an AARP Card. I don’t remember what the publishing world in general was up to, but in Christian circles it was Evidence That Demands a Verdict – a volume that eventually became a classic and the go-to volume for Christian apologetics. Over the past forty-five years it has been added to, updated, expanded and improved.Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Now in 2017 Thomas Nelson has published the latest. This time it is billed as “The Completely Updated and Expanded Classic.” The official title is Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World. This new version is authored by the original author Josh McDowell and his son Sean McDowell, PhD.

And updated and expanded it is! This version is completely redone. After some lengthy front matter (Be sure to read Josh McDowell’s testimony “He Changed My Life.”), the volume is arranged in four parts: Part I: Evidence for the Bible, Part II: Evidence for Jesus, Part III: Evidence for the Old Testament, and Part IV: Evidence for Truth. Parts I and II contain much of the former material with some additions. However, it is Part III that contains a great deal of new material. There are thirteen chapters dealing with the validity of the Old Testament. Part IV is philosophical yet forms the basis for any apologetic undertaking.

The major structural “update” you’ll find is the format. Gone is the “ heavy” outline format in favor of a more “moderate” one. A distinct change in that it allows the reader to consume paragraphs under a particular subject heading. In short, it is just more readable.

This is a must volume for any believer with even the slightest interest in the soundness of the Christian faith. If you have volumes 1 & 2 and are familiar with referring to them, I would recommend keeping them right beside this one. This would make the ideal Christmas gift for a pastor or seminary student (about $20 on Amazon). Get this into your library!

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

A Place Called Heaven

A Place Called HeavenAmidst a heavenly sea of celebrity and pseudo-celebrity authors producing books on what exactly heaven will be like, we have another. Many are without substance, tipping more to the devotional side (see here). But this one has some measure of meat to sink your spiritual teeth into albeit much of the information has been presented previously.

If you have ever wondered about your heavenly home, Dr. Robert Jeffress has written an informative book entitled A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths About Your Eternal Home which beautifully addresses the subject.

Jeffress uses a perfect balance of Scripture as well as insight from many acknowledged wise men of faith such as D.L. Moody, Howard Hendricks and Randy Alcorn to support his beliefs and validate any issues that might be raised. He also uses timely illustrations to drive home the answer to pertinent questions such as “What will heaven be like?”; “Will I still be “me” in heaven?”;  “Won’t I be bored?” and “Who and what will we do there?” These and six other questions are dealt with in separate chapters making the book topical and easy to digest.

One of the relevant chapters for current inquirers of heaven focuses on near death experiences. Using Scripture and apologetic reasoning, Jeffress educates the reader how to recognize and address these questionable issues in a discerning manner. This chapter is worth a serious study in view of the slew of books and movies on this subject during the last several years.

This is an easy-to-read and comprehend 250-page volume and is well-suited for both the new believer and those of the faith who long to know more about their future home. The volume is not targeted to theologians and scholars. With that thought the major criticism is the price tag of $19.99. A book written and targeted toward inquiring or potential Christians should be less pricey and thus more affordable for the everyday Believer.

The end of the matter is this: excellent for new believers and the non-believer; can serve well as a basis for Sunday School or small group study.

NOTE: A portion of this book review was provided by Ellie Marrandette, New Creations Ministries. https://newcreationsministries.wordpress.com/

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Baker Books for a fair and honest review.

Classic Hymns

Certainly everyone knows that music, especially the Classic Hymns, are a vital component of worship. I realize a great quantity of these great old hymns have been eliminated from worship in a lot most churches but they also remain a worship staple for some.Classic Hymns

So, in any effort to keep alive the Classic Hymns alive, B&H Publishing Group has released the latest in its Reflect on series – Classic Hymns: Read & Reflect with the Classics. If you are a lover of “Holy, Holy, Holy,”  “Love Lifted Me” and the like, this is a volume you will thoroughly enjoy.

Now, with that in mind, this is not a book that will reveal the history of the hymn for you. Rather, it is constructed as a devotional. There are 90 Classic Hymns included in the book – three months’ worth of devotionals. Each hymn includes the complete text along with the writers of the words and music. This is followed by three separate devotional sections: Bible Study Questions, Personal Reflection Questions and Prayer.

The Bible Study segment suggests you read a Scripture selection which is pertinent to the hymn and then reflect on that Scripture by answering a couple of questions. In general the questions are thought provoking. Personal Reflection focuses on private questions that integrate both the hymn and the Scripture reading. Although some are a bit tacky, for the most part they will demand that you take a little time for contemplation.

If you are searching for good devotional material either private or in a group setting such as family, Classic Hymns will be a good resource. It will get you into both the Bible and the hymnal. It should certainly revive your interest in the great hymns of the faith.

Disclaimer: The volume was provided to me by B&H Publishing Group for a fair and honest review.

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.

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.