Book Review – Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources (24/6)

I’m really out of depth when it comes to the Old Testament, however I am keen to grow in this area, and thus wanted to read this book to help me grow in my understanding of the Old Testament especially of it’s historical context.

Ancient Israel's History: An Introduction to Issues and SourcesThis reference material therefore comes as a very helpful tool in this pursuit. To be frank, having very little exposure to the current research of the Old Testament, this book seemed at first to be an insurmountable task, this was not helped by the introduction which was slightly technical.

However, as I ploughed through the various chapters I found them to be very readable and informative. The authors reviews several scholars on the various books of the bible, bringing to the readers a summary and history of what has been discuss in the scholastic world. Each book of the bible is given an in-depth review and also contains many helpful side-notes that help illuminates various topics that are relevant to the biblical book (e.g.  the ANE city of Alalakh in Genesis or the Role the Sinaitic Covenant played in Israel). What was very helpful was also the fact that each chapter aims to give a rough guide to the whole biblical book instead of just providing the background materials. So as one reads through Genesis, one will be given additional information on the various events in Genesis as it progresses along.

Although it has been very helpful, I do find that this book is meant for Old Testament scholars or seminary students. Lay persons will benefit from this, but will need to be prepared to work through the materials. For pastors who intends to do a preaching series on the Old Testament, they can consider to consult the chapter on the book they are going to preach. As it stands, the book is around 460 pages (not counting the 100 pages of references material) which can be daunting for many. But, for those who really want to grow in their understanding of the Old Testament, or are pursuing a research topic in the Old Testament, it book will be of much value too them.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review – Engaging the Christian Scripture (30/3)

The bible is one of the few books most people would struggle to read it all the way through. Yet, it is without a doubt, one of the most important book in the world and this especially so for christians. When one begins to read the bible one will be faced with a array of literature within the bible. Narratives are generally a lot easier than epistles or wisdom writings. yet the crucial task of understanding the Book still lies with the individual christians.

Engaging the Christian ScriptureAnd here is one book that will help layperson and new seminary students alike in understanding the Book. Engaging the Christian Scripture is really a book that helps you engage with the christian Scripture.

Arterbury, Bellinger Jr and Dodson has written a helpful book on teaching christians what the bible is all about. Comparing with other New/Old Testament introductions, this book is really meant to help readers understand the bible itself. It does not spend time wrestling with the authorship provenance or purpose. Rather it tells the readers what each of the bile is about, the type of literary and genre it belongs to, and how to interpret and understand such genre.

I found this book to be exceptionally user-friendly and very useful to anyone who is new to this subject or topic. Included inside are also side notes that helps the readers pick up very useful information related to each chapter.

I would recommend any lay person who has a desire to grow in their understanding of the bible, or any students who are thinking or has just started seminary to read this book. It will surely help them to read and understand better.

Rating: 5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – 1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (6/2)

I’ve always like the BECNT commentary series, I find it similar to the Pillar commentary series but slightly more technical. I’ve not covered the whole book yet, but based on what I’ve read, this commentary seems to be able to deliver the goods.

1&2 Thessalonians (BECNT)starts off the commentary with an excellent introduction. First he talks about the context of Thessalonica, the history, the cultural and social context. This sets the context for the readers as they read through Thessalonians, Weima also very helpful points out important aspects of Thessalonica that will be important as one tries to understand Thessalonians in it’s context.

Following which Weima brings the readers to each section of the book. He starts by analysing the literary of the text, then moves on the the exegesis and exposition of the text. I found this order helpful as it helps me see the big-picture and flow of the text first, then moves in to the nitty-gritty details of the text itself. All greek words in the commentary has also been transliterated, which will help those who are rusty with their greek. Lastly, Weima also scatters excursuses around in his commentary appropriately, these deals with specific issues with more depth, but those who no interest in the discussion, they can be skipped without affect their understanding of the commentary. (If you have use commentaries by Colin Kruse, it’s similar to the style he uses for the excursuses).

In short, this is a technical commentary, with some knowledge of greek required. I hope this commentary receives wide readership among those who are studying Thessalonians. Pastors who intend to wrestle with the (greek) text rigorously, ought to consider getting this book for consultation. Those doing scholarly work on Thessalonians would see this as a helpful reference tool in their research.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story (21/12)

History has never occurred in a vacuum, neither do historians live in a vacuum. They are shaped by what has happened in their lives, their upbringing and their topics of interests. This essentially is a book on that, and the historian in view is Mark Noll.

From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian's Discovery of the Global Christian StoryFor those who do not know who he is, you can google/wiki him. But he should be most known for a number of his works, including, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” and “Is the Reformation Over?”. And as much as one may enjoy the fruit of Noll’s labour, one might be interested to know what influenced him and what caused him to be who he is today.

And that is what this book is about, the thoughts, reflections and life of Mark Noll. I must say when I first saw his name on the cover of the book, I was rather interested to read about his thoughts on the missions, or so I thought.

After I’ve finished the introduction, I figured that I was going to be going down a very different path that I intended. As someone who has truly not read any works by Noll yet, I found this book rather intimidating at first, I feared my lack of knowledge would be my downfall. Yet, I was in for a surprise, I can very well say that this may perhaps be a good book for people who like Noll or would to know about Noll a little more than his literary works.

The books generally talks about the influences that Noll had as he was young, what were the things or people who shaped him into who he is today. Noll spends time talking about the major influences in his lives and how those have shaped his research and also his literary output. For most of the chapters, Nolll generally recounts and reflects on incidents that have happened in his life, which though can be interesting at times, it was not what I was looking out for. In his last chapter, Noll presents to the readers some of his own thoughts and reflection on the current modern context. This I felt was the best part of the book (fans of Noll may disagree with me about it!). Noll brings no specific answers but present to the readers many thoughtful pointers that should provoke readers to think further about the topics he raises.

Barring that, this book can also very helpful if you want to know why or how Noll has written some of his books. Noll gives elaborate descriptions on the reasons why and also the situations that brought him about to write what he has written.

So if you want to know about the thoughts, reflections and life of Mark Noll, you should read this book! Or if you’re one who doing research on Noll, this would be a valuable book. If however you wish to read about Noll’s insight into a specific topics, I would redirect you to his other works.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith: An Introductory Guide (15/12)

Psychology in our era has come to dominate so much of our lives. Almost everyone who has lived in the modern era knows some things about it. The fight between psychology and the church has also not been settled definitely yet. As someone who’s reading psychology at the undergraduate level, I’ve always wanted to think christianly about what I’m studying. Currently, I’m tilting towards the biblical counselling track, but still open to listen to what others have to say. So it was with delight when I saw the opportunity to read this book.Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith: An Introductory Guide

Paul Moes & Donald Tellinghuisen has written a book that aim to be an introduction for christians studying psychology. Moes and Tellinghuisen first introduces the reader to five themes that the bibles teaches us about what man truly is. These five themes then build the basis and foundation of how the authors (and the readers) will think christianly about psychology. They would be consistently revisited and reviewed as the authors bring the readers through the various chapters.

Moes and Tellinghuisen does a comprehensive work and cover most of the topics that an undergraduate will cover in their studies. They were covered in depth to allow the readers time and space to learn and think about the topics. Also, Moes and Tellinghuisen constantly help the readers think christianly about what is usually thought in the textbooks.

What Moes and Tellinghuisen does well, is they do not give an one-sided approach to the topics. Often they are able to present the topics succinctly yet able to give an accurate picture of what they are about.

However, there are some areas of improvement too. First, I found little statistics inside the book, far too often I find myself studying a lot of statistics that studies uses to validate their results. Next, I found the book not very balanced, I found chapters 14, 15 and 16 exceptionally well written as compared to the rest of the book, future editions should endeavour to present the rest of the chapters as exceptional as the last 3 chapters were. Lastly, although the authors constantly referred to their five themes, I find that more biblical support or if certain relevant bible verses can be referred to at the appropriate chapters would make it even better. What will make this book even better would be a short chapter either at the front or the back on the various perspectives christians approach psychology. This would be the most appropriate place for a student to explore and gain valuable insights into the different schools of thoughts.

Having said all that, I would no doubt gladly recommend this book to anyone who intends to study psychology in the future. If you intend or are currently studying psychology, this would be a good introduction for you. Be prepared to soak and learn all you can from this book before you embark onto your studies.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – For the Glory of God: Recovering A Biblical Theology of Worship (14/10)

There might never be an end to worship wars this side of heaven, but for a topic that has been so hotly fought over, it is surprising to see not many books on the theology/biblical theology of worship. What comes to my mind immediately about this topic is the book by David Peterson “Engaging with God”. But now, I think there is another solid contribution on this topic.

For the Glory of GodDaniel Block has written a 400+ page study on the biblical theology of worship. This book according to the author, in contrast to the one by Peterson, is able to present more deeply the topic of worship from the Old Testament, and after i’ve finish this book, I fully agree with him!

Block has done a comprehensive study on worship, he examines all the nooks and crannies of worship, and in my opinion has truly left no stones unturned (maybe other than spiritual gifts bit).

It would make this review far too long to examine every topic within the book. So I will give broad comments on book as a whole. First Block brings the readers to see how the audience in OT and NT first understood worship, giving many valuable insights to this topic that is not often found elsewhere. From it, he derives his definition of worship, which he expands in the chapters that follows.

Block then logically moves from point to point within his definition and covers everything within the topic of worship. He would first examines from the Old Testament (he uses the word First Testament instead) what it says about the topic, discuss about them in their context, and make a quick summary based on what is covered. Then he will move to the new Testament, and examine what has changed/remained, and explaining why these changes have happened. Sometimes, for certain topics, he would also enlarge his findings to the records found in the early churches. Next he moves on to give some of his suggestions or thoughts on the particular topics and what it implies for us today.

Block’s observation from the text has been very detail, showing his depth of research and work put into this book. Block’s suggestions and thoughts often found at the end of each chapters was also very perceptive. Through them he guides readers to think even more deeply about these topics and how that should affect our worship.

One tiny critique to this book, in his definition, Block defines worship only as human acts, however don’t the angels in heaven also worship the Lord alongside with us? This lack however will in no way affect the content of the book.

This might not be Block’s magnum opus book for the laymen, but will surely be one of the best reference book on worship for a long time to come. Highly recommended for pastors and worship leaders to think deeply, biblically on this topic. Be warned though, to complete this book will be no walk in the park, but you will be deeply rewards for your efforts, and thankful to God for what Block has done for the christian community.

Rating: 5 / 5

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Book Review – Models for Biblical Preaching (3/7)

Books

Well this isn’t exactly a book on how to do expository preaching, it is a book that shows you how an expository sermon should look like. What’s more, all the sermons in this book is on the old testament!9780801049378

Having just recently read the ‘Biblical Preaching’ by Haddon Robinson (an excellent book, I must add), I was very much eager to read this “follow up” book. Altogether there was 11 sermons inside. each from a different passage and genre.

I felt that the distribution of the genres and books were thought out and planned, no major genre were left out. The authors did not choose easy passages not did they used those frequently used passages, and a short commentary about the sermon itself was given each of them was presented.

What I felt was good about this book were the inclusion of the interview and commentary after each sermon. This really helps preachers old and new to see how others have been doing this work and also their tips and advice to preachers who have to preach to their congregation week after week.

Although not all the passages chosen were frequently used/seen, some of them were the more common ones that can easily be found elsewhere. And while each and every single contributors were students of Haddon Robinson and applied the skills as mentioned is his books on preaching, a more detailed study on each and every sermon would be more helpful. Understandably, based on the number of sermons included in this volume this would have made the task of reading a little repetitive. But since these are “models” maybe a more careful study on some or a few of them would be of more help to the reader.

Furthermore, would it be necessary for this book to be printed? I’m not sure about that. With more and more whole series on expository preaching (e.g. Preaching the Word, Reformed Expository Commentary, Mentor Expository Commentary, etc…) Would I have benefited more from them or from this book? Granted that these other series might not all use Robinson’s model, but with an average of 2-3 sermons for each genre, would that be sufficient? And without a detailed analysis of how the sermons reflects the model, would this book really help me if I’m trying to learn and utilise the model?

Don’t get me wrong, the sermons included in this book are good and deserves to be read by preachers. They would encourage you to stay on the course and help you see that preaching good sermons is something that can be accomplished, but I’m not certain whether this book would spur preachers to preach the Old Testament more or would have had the necessary tools to do that apart from the passages shown within the book.

Rating: 3.25/5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (1/7)

Books

If you have dipped into a few preaching books on expository preaching, you would no doubt be referred on multiple times to Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching. So it was with great joy and anticipation when I found that I can finally read this book.

Biblical PreachingRobinson first begins the book by making a case and defense for expository preaching. Though it was certainty not the most water-tight argument for expository, it does the job sufficiently. I have no doubts no readers who picked this book would rather have this book begin by making a lengthy defense for expository preaching. Robinson however does make show why expository is important and what is, and is not expository preaching. Too often the term ‘expository preaching’ is abuse by preachers and writers to an extent that almost any kind of preaching can be termed as expository preaching, Robinson refuses to do that and states clearly what he is teaching and advocating. His definition can be summarise as ‘communicating biblical concepts…. through proper exegesis… with the Spirit’s help in the preacher’s life and applying it to the hearers’

Robinson then takes the readers step by step through what can be commonly found in other expository preaching books. Deriving the main idea from texts, building an outline, asking functional questions (this section is very good), making good application, things to take note during preaching, how to introduce the audience to the text and how to conclude it.

I found the section on functional questions was very helpful, basically, there are 3 kinds of questions you might have to answer in every sermon, explaining, proving or applying it. This section really plays an important role in preaching, after all, what else could you do in preaching other than addressing these 3 questions?

Along the way, Robinson gives the reader tips and advice on what younger preachers can learn to do early on in their lives (e.g. having an index for illustrations for future use). At each step, Robinson guides the readers slowly, showing the necessity of each of these steps and their importance.

What I found was most helpful was the student exercises included at the back of the book, these I think really help drive the point home each time after I finished reading the chapter. I highly recommended and advice future readers to do each exercise after you have finished reading that particular chapter. The exercises help to recap and also illustrates Robinson’s point. Many a times, while doing the exercises, I find myself having light bulbs lighting in my head, due to the lucidity of these exercises.

Finally, Robinson brings the readers through one sermon he’s prepared and shows the reader how each and every part of the sermon is based on what he has taught us in the sermon. It was a great idea to include this is and really does bring the flesh onto the skeleton that he’s been teaching about.

All in all, this is an excellent book on preaching, though, I’m a little sad that no word was said about topical preaching, this really is a minor drawback. It would be good to include some advice for preachers who might want/have to preach occasionally a topical sermon, but still remain a committed expository expositor.

Rating: 4.25/5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.