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.

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NIV Faithlife Study Bible

In a Christian publishing world that is awash in “Study” Bibles, it is a herculean task to publish one that is a standout. There are topical, themed, theological, chronological, popular-pastor … well, you get the idea … study Bibles. So when the NIV Faithlife Study Bible came my way, I was quite curious. I have known of Faithlife (formerly Logos) for several years as a user of their software. Faithlife has been stirring up the digital Bible world for twenty-five years. Logos Bible Software is their flagship product. With the success of their Bible software, they have expanded significantly, almost all within the Bible scholarship arena. For a number of years they have been “working on” the Faithlife Study Bible as a digital product, adding and editing as time progressed. In fact, you can get virtually all of the information in NIV Faithlife Study Bible at  https://faithlifebible.com/. The major difference will be the Bible translation – you’ll get the Lexham English Bible on line.NIV Faithlife Study Bible

Now you can get that digital project in print. Faithlife has teamed with Zondervan to publish the  NIV Faithlife Study Bible. The combination makes for a dynamic Bible study tool. Faithlife has used their wide range of digital resources to produce a Bible that is more than just another “Study” Bible. At first glance it may look like a typical study Bible, But do not be deceived; it is the visual content of this publication that makes it so beneficial.

What makes this “Study” Bible so special is the multitude of charts, graphs, tables, lists, timelines, etc., that are appropriately placed with the biblical text. For example, at the start of every book there is a timeline pertaining to that book or collection of books (such as Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther). This is a tremendous aid to the understanding of the historical context.

Of course, with all of these study aids and extra “goodies” comes a bit of bulk. There are 2304 pages included in the two inch thick volume and it weighs in at 3.8 pounds – perhaps a bit heavy to be toting everywhere you go. But, putting aside the bulk, this Bible is well worth the investment.

If you are a “I want to feel the Bible in my hand to read it” person, this is the version of the Faithlife Study Bible to have. In fact, this may be THE “Study Bible” to have.

Disclaimer: I was provided this volume by Zondervan for a fair and honest review.

The Essence of the New Testament

In a world that is awash in volumes concerning New Testament Surveys and Introductions, we have a new entry (well, it’s a second edition entry) – The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. It was published by B&H Academic. It is outstanding!the-essence-of-the-nt

So with such a multitude of surveys, what would make this standout from all the others?

The editors and contributors. This volume is edited by Elmer Towns and Ben Gutierrez. Towns, of course, is a well-known figure in evangelical circles and a prolific writer (over 170 books plus countless articles) and a co-founder of Liberty University. Gutierrez is a Ph.D. and professor at Liberty. The seven contributors (along with Towns and Gutierrez) are all conservative scholars and professors.

The quality and conciseness. One of the trends in New Testament survey books is an overabundance of information that might be more suited for advanced study. But not with The Essence of the New Testament. The authors have obviously made a determined effort to filter the extraneous and present vital and essential information without trying to weigh down the reader.

The book opens with four chapters on introductory material leading with “How We Got the New Testament.” Each entry on the twenty-seven books of the NT contains the standard biblical background information – author, recipients, occasion and date, and outline. This is followed by a brief commentary entitled the “Message” that follows the structure of the outline adding to the smooth flow of the book and ease of understanding.

The end of each book has study questions and a brief bibliography and there are also a multitude of pictures and a number of charts that further facilitate the explanation of the particular NT book.

The viability for Christians. One of the most attractive qualities of this book is that it will have appeal to a majority of believers. It is straightforward and easy to follow – no linguistic tricks and no ivory tower theological language. It is a reference volume that the inquisitive Bible student will want to have at the ready when studying any book of the New Testament. (I have a vison of someone studying Colossians with the Bible in front, a notepad to one side and The Essence of the New Testament on the other.)

This is a must-have volume for every Christian especially teachers and preachers. It is a double must-have volume for new believers and first year Bible college students. It is a classic Bible educational tool. This volume will pique the student’s curiosity for more information.

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

Greek for Everyone

One of the pressing questions for all those who “religiously” study the Bible is what about the original languages? A plethora of questions arise from this starting point: Do I really need to know the original languages? If so, how much? How do I go about learning these languages?greek-for-everyone

Naturally, there is no shortage of Greek language experts and with that, of course, a plethora of books on how to learn Greek. I have in my library at least half a dozen books featuring the subject of learning Greek – Greek for the Rest of Us, Learn NT Greek, You Can Learn NT Greek are just three of the titles. All of these present us with basically the same format – learn vocabulary, the declensions and their endings, the conjugation of all the verbs and so on.

Now I have a new one – Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application by A. Chadwick Thornhill. Thornhill holds a PhD and is a professor at Liberty University. The book is published by BakerBooks.

So it was with a here-we-go-again attitude that I began to dig into Thornhill’s volume. But what a surprise! Thornhill does not demand a routine of endless memorization. Yes, he encourages us to get a grasp on some basic vocabulary, however, his emphasis is not on producing Greek scholars but rather on making us functional in the Greek language so we can dig a little deeper into the Scriptures. He does this through a survey of “the most important parts of speech and grammatical features of the Greek of the New Testament.” (He spends nine chapters on this information.) His theory is that if we are familiar with these basic elements of Greek, we can then use various “Resources for Navigating the Greek New Testament,” which are explained in Chapter 4.

If you have a desire to be able to investigate the New Testament in the original Greek, but have minimal time to spend studying the myriad of complexities of the language, Greek for Everyone is a book you will find indispensable. If you have an aspiration to learn the language, I would recommend you begin with this volume. Then you can study the more detailed Greek textbooks.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by BakerBooks for a fair, honest and impartial review.

The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown

This is the second edition of The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by B&H Academic Publishers. The authors, Andreas Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum and Charles Quarles, are all experts in the arena of the New Testament. There is no lack of New Testament scholarship.The Cradle.png

This is a “big” book – literally and figuratively. This volume is a massive undertaking. It is big literally because it encompasses 1130 pages (not including an excellent map section in the back) and weighs nearly four pounds. It is probably not a volume to be carried any great distance in your backpack.

It is big figuratively due to its importance. It is comprehensive in that it deals with virtually every area of the New Testament but not exhaustive hence a wide-ranging bibliography at the end of each chapter.

The book begins with a two chapter Introduction on “The Nature and Scope of Scripture” and “The Political and Religious Background of the New Testament.” These chapters will educate and should inspire any New Testament pupil. Chapter 3 is a 106 page examination of “Jesus and the Relationship Between the Gospels,” encompassing nearly every issue that might challenge the student. Following chapter 1-3 is a book-by-book introduction to each of twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

Every chapter begins with a “Core Knowledge” section describing the knowledge expected at a Basic, Intermediate and Advanced level – an excellent tool to determine where one stands concerning the subject matter. Subsequent to this each chapter concludes with a series of study questions which would serve well on a final examination (thus the classification as a textbook).

While this is primarily a textbook, it is at the same time a ready reference for the New Testament. For any serious student of the New Testament this should be a go-to volume. If you love the Word of God, this is a book that should be on your bookshelf and referred to frequently.

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

Unlocking the Bible

In a world of Christian literature that can boast a multitude of volumes on bibliology, you might think to yourself, “What? Another one?” And from the title of this volume – Unlocking the Bible: What It is, How We Got It, and Why We Can Trust It – you might think that this is just another rehash of material in defense of the Bible. And, in a way, it is a bit of that. But, it is more than that. Yes, there is a chapter on “How We Got the Bible” and one on “Why We Can Trust the Bible,” the obligatory chapters. However, there are also chapters on “Understanding the Old Testament and New Testament.” And then there’s still more. (More on that in a minute.)unlocking-the-bible

The book is written by Jeff Lasseigne, an administrative pastor with Harvest Christian Fellowship who teaches the midweek Bible Study. It is published by Baker Books. The book has two main sections: “The Big Picture” and “Books of the Bible.”

Included in “The Big Picture” and, as mentioned previously, he has included separate chapters on “Understanding the Old Testament and New Testament.” Interestingly, in between these two chapters he has inserted a chapter on “The Sounds of Silence” which gives historical background on the 400 silent years. It contains excellent historical background leading to the New Testament providing an excellent segue. This is a welcome chapter which is usually not found in books of this category.

The big surprise comes in Part 2: “Books of the Bible.” It contains a very short study of each book of the Bible. The studies are brief yet informative. These studies are a product of his midweek Bible study class.

When you put these elements together, this book is the perfect introductory volume to the Bible. It is ideal for new Christians. Lasseigne has skillfully written the material in a manner that will give new believer a firm grasp on not only what the Bible is, but also what the Bible contains. It is the perfect Bible primer.

I highly recommend this book as an entry level volume to the world of bibliology. Pastors, if you’re leading a new believer’s class, this would be a first-rate text.

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

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the OT & NT

Since these two volumes were provided as a set and since they have a common theme and format, I thought it best to review them in one review.

Like all other subject areas of the Bible there is no shortage of Old Testament and New Testament Introductions. Most serious Bible students likely have a couple on their shelves. Introductions primarily concentrate on historical issues such as authorship, date, purpose, textual questions and the like. Generally there is also a synopsis of the book’s content. These two volumes include that material.A Biblical-Theological Intro OT

Let’s begin with the proper titles. One is titled A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised and the other A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized. The OT is edited by Miles V. Van Pelt and the NT by Michael J. Kruger. All of the entries are written by current or former professors of the Reformed Theological Seminary who have done extensive study on their subject matter. All the contributors have a reformed theological viewpoint; however, I found that perspective not to be blatant or obtrusive.

The order of the books for the NT volume is the same as our English Bibles while the OT order follows the Hebrew Bible. (Consult the “Introduction” to the OT for the reasoning.) Concerning format each entry follows an identical pattern of Introduction, Background Issues, Structure and Outline, and Message and Theology. Under each of these headings the authors were free to discuss matter appropriate to the understanding of the book. There is also a Select Bibliography at the end of each chapter that is valuable for further reference.A Bibical-Theological Intro NT.jpg

Bear in mind that these books are likely not to be read straight through but rather used as a reference. With that in mind as an example, I “referenced” the Psalms written by Mark Futato, a leading scholar on the book. I found his discussion instructive and fascinating and is an essential for anyone preaching or teaching the Psalms.

These are two volumes that absolutely must be in the library of every individual who preaches or teaches the Word of God. You will undoubtedly be able to find much of the information in other introductory volumes, but I found these to be written in such a manner that everyone, layman to scholar, can quickly digest and extract the information easily and readily.

Disclaimer: These two volumes were provided to me by Crossway for a fair and honest review.