Books

Book Review - 7 Truths that Changed the World

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As a pastor of a church plant with many new Christians, I found 7 Truths that Changed the World by Kenneth Richard Samples, to be a great foundation for a sermon series on the simple foundational truths of Christianity. The author does a great job of taking very complex subjects and making them palatable for the common reader like me. The book is not overbearing with the amount of information, nor is it too weak in defending the truth. It is a perfect balance between the academic and practical.

The book is built around the seven truths, with a section devoted to each of them.  Samples articulates and defends the specific truth and also explains the positions of other prominent worldviews.   This review will focus on a brief summary of the author’s explanation and defense of each of the seven truths.

Dangerous Idea #1: Not All Dead Men Stay Dead

The hope of Easter is defended quite well by Mr. Samples.  Samples deals with the following seven historical facts: the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, the short time frame between actual events and eyewitness claims, the extraordinary transformation of the apostles, the greatest conversion in history, the emergence of the historic Christian church and the emergence of Sunday as a day of worship. Each of these points are summarized and a fundamental defense of the resurrection of Christ is advanced.  Read more about Book Review - 7 Truths that Changed the World

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Book Review - Interpreting the Parables

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Image of Interpreting the Parables
by Craig L. Blomberg
IVP Academic 2012
Paperback 463

People like to tell stories and they like to listen to them. They like listening to the retelling of history in story form and the telling of made-up stories for the purpose of making a point. While interpreting the retelling of history is fairly straight forward the interpreting of made-up stories is not. Many people groups and religions use stories for various and similar purposes. Christianity is no different. Stories that are made-up with the intent of teaching a lesson are typically called parables. While there are few parables within the Old Testament the New Testament Gospels are saturated with them.

Following a long line of contributions to the field of hermeneutics and parables, and amidst a myriad of proposals, Craig Blomberg has updated his original work on the parables with the second edition of his Interpreting the Parables by IVP. In many ways this is two books in one as it deals with both the history of hermeneutical method and a discussion of proper hermeneutical method. Further, as one reads the book it becomes apparent that the book serves as more of a handbook (though a rather long one) than a straightforward theology of the parables since there is only one chapter dealing with the theology of the parables and the section dealing with Blomberg’s proposed hermeneutical method is not exhaustive (though extremely helpful). Read more about Book Review - Interpreting the Parables

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Book Review - Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

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Image of Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City
by Timothy J. Keller
Zondervan 2012
Hardcover 400

I saw a slight criticism of Tim Keller’s book Center Church about a month after it was released this September, but there was no way that the critic could have read the entire book so fast! The criticism got my attention and after reading what Keller had to say about his own book, I decided to buy it and check it out.  I had my doubts after having read a few comments from people who voiced their reservations about Keller’s direction. So, I want to lay out a report of what the book is about and what some of the key thoughts are that drive the direction of this book.

1. The Gospel

The first and most important issue that Keller addresses is the gospel, it’s content and it’s exclusivity. He also makes it clear that incarnational gospel living isn’t enough, words are necessary! It must be preached verbally. The gospel is a story that begins with creation and ends in the consummation. Different parts of the plot line of the story of the gospel are better starting points to share with unbelievers than others depending on the culture. There is no “one size fits all” presentation of the gospel that fits in every time and place. Neither is the gospel just a hoop we jump through to get converted:

It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians and then Christians mature by trying hard to live according to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on…. (p. 48)

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The Notes: Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom

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Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com

President Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) is known as “the Great Communicator” not merely because he had the polished delivery of an accomplished actor, but because he actually had something substantial to say and often said it very well (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”).

Among the tools of effective communication is the employment of suitable quotes, aphorisms and stories to illustrate or drive home a point or to clarify an idea. Mr. Reagan had a sizeable private stash of quotes and quips and jokes that he had accumulated over the decades, all written out by hand on 4” x 6” cards, ready to be accessed as needed. This stack of cards was kept close at hand in his personal desk drawer for easy reference. At his death, the contents of his desk were boxed up and deposited in the Reagan Presidential Library in California. During some renovations in 2010, this stack of hand-written cards was rediscovered, and a selection of them is herein compiled and published.

The quotes, stories and jokes are divided up into nine sections, viz., “On the Nation,” “On Liberty,” “On War,” “On the People,” “On Religion,” “The World,” “On Character,” “On Political Theater,” and “Humor.” These are followed by a “glossary”—really a brief description of named authors quoted—and a topical index.

Many of the quotations are outstanding—I quote a few of the crème de la crème below (having to leave out many very good ones), but unfortunately, none is documented in the book beyond naming the original author. Reagan’s cards did not provide chapter and page references, but the editor should have, as far as he was able, provided documentation. Read more about The Notes: Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom

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Book Review - Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith

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No one sets out to be a Pharisee, well, almost no one. There was a time before and during the life of Christ where a certain group of religious leaders were actually called Pharisees—and they were proud of it. They thought they were doing God and all His people a spiritual service by making all kinds of extra biblical rules. They were making laws for God’s laws and they believed God loved them all the more because of it. They were zealous about their faith.

“Accidental Pharisees”

Fast forward to today. Being a Pharisee is not cool. One kind of wanders if it ever really was, but to the self-identified Pharisees it was for sure. Though we would never proudly identify ourselves as Pharisees, we can all be one at some time or another over one thing or another. This is what Larry Osborne calls being an “accidental Pharisee.” In his new book Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith, Osborne goes right for the gut in all of us. In a Carl Trueman sort of way, he goes after everyone for becoming Pharisees. Simply put, in a zealous attempt to live more scripturally, we judge everyone else’s faith according to ours and become the very thing no one wants to be—a Pharisee.  But we did it accidentally. Osborne identifies “accidental Pharisees” as:

People like you and me who, despite the best of intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving. (p. 17)

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Book Review - Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views

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Image of Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views
by Maurice Robinson, Darrell Bock, Keith Elliott, Daniel Wallace
B&H Academic 2008
Paperback 160

I am preaching through the Gospel of Mark. From the outset, I knew I had to decide how I was going to approach the last 12 verses. In the past, the question of when does Mark’s Gospel end would not have been a problem. Preaching from the King James to people reading the King James doesn’t necessitate an explanation. Other than that part about handling snakes I mean. And drinking poison (Mark 16:18). Besides, I could just camp on Mark 16:15 and be done with it. That was then. This is now. For a number of reasons I preach from the NASB. My folks carry a variety of translations. The NIV makes a clear distinction separating vs. 8 from vss. 9-20. Most of the others simply use brackets with a footnote. In preparation I read this book edited by David Alan Black, who also served as one of the contributors.

Let’s start with the issue at hand. “Since the two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20” (as per the NIV) are the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark authentic? Does Mark end his Gospel at verse 8, as all the modern translations seem to suggest or did he end at verse 20, the so-called long ending (LE), as the majority of manuscripts do? I assumed it was an either or question, who knew there were four possible views! This book did a very good job of differentiating between them. Read more about Book Review - Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views

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