Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Spurgeon Study Bible - CSB Version










The Spurgeon Study Bible is a very neat idea.  As most people somewhat acquainted with Mr. Spurgeon know, he was not a verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible kind of preacher.  He usually would choose a verse (or portion of verses) for one Sunday and would preach on that and then preach on another (non-related, often from a whole different book)verse the next week. And also, some may also notice that his preaching was not always very exegetical.

That being said, this  commentary is a great compilation!  It sort of gives a glimpse of how it would have been if Spurgeon went by a more verse by verse preaching style, and it focuses on snippets from his sermons that are more exegetical.

The version that I have is the brown and tan cloth over board Bible.  It is very nicely bound and seems quite durable.  The spine has some fancy looking ridges on it and the front has Spurgeon's signature printed on the bottom left.

There is a lot of good commentary in this work.  But there are also, of course, places where the commentary is not so great. To give an example, in one place he says,  "I hate that plan of reading the Scriptures in which we are told, when we lay hold of a gracious promise, 'Oh, that is for the Jews.'   Then I also am a Jew, for it is given to me!  Every promise of God's Word belongs to all those who have the faith to grasp it…."  That is a ridiculous, irreverent and, to speak very plainly, quite a selfish statement.  Why does everything have to be about us individually? And it absolutely cannot be applied in a general way.  What if there was a married, childless, ninety year old woman who greatly desires to have children and so she reads Genesis and Matthew,  and grasps hold of the promises given to Sarah and Elizabeth, that they would bear children in their old age,  and applies them to herself in faith?  Is that a reverent interpretation of God's Word?

Anyway, I still think that this is a worthwhile Bible to get.  There is a lot of good commentary in here, and of course, it is filled with pithy statements like, "Let us never think that we have learned a doctrine until we have seen its fruit in our lives." and "Anything is a blessing that makes us pray"

And I was particularly pleased at Spurgeon's conclusions in some places that are more or less controversial today.  For instance, in speaking of the flood's being a universal flood some of the commentary says, "If Moses had meant to describe a partial deluge on only a small part of the earth, he used misleading language.  But if he meant to teach that the deluge was universal, he used the words we might have expected that he would use.  I should think that no person, merely by reading this chapter, would arrive at the conclusion that has been reached by some of our learned men - too learned to hold the simple truth of God. " Wow! That's really stating it plainly.

And then, speaking of 1 Corinthians 9-10 ("What no eye has seen, no ear has heard….") he expresses incredulity at "How frequently verses of Scripture are misquoted!  How frequently do we hear believers describing heaven as a place of which we cannot conceive.  They quote verse 9, and there they stop, not seeing that the marrow of the whole passage lies in verse 10.  The apostle was not talking about heaven at all.  He was only saying that the wisdom of this world is not able to discover the things of God, that the merely carnal mind is not able to know the deep spiritual things of our most holy faith…" Rather, these things "must be revealed by the Spirit of God, as they are to all believers."  I was delighted that he had come to that conclusion as I know that my dad (a pastor) has been frustrated by the same thing.

As one would expect with just about anything written by Spurgeon, there is a lot of quotable stuff in the commentary. Overall, it's exactly what one would expect in a Spurgeon study Bible.

Many thanks to the folks at B&H Publishers for the free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)!

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This Bible may be purchased at websites like Christianbook.com and Amazon.com

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Eve in Exile - Rebekah Merkle

What is God's purpose for Christian women? Do women have a unique roll to fulfill or is it exactly the same as men's'?  In our Christian circles, which seems to be infected by our feminist focused society, this book is quite a refreshing breath of reaffirmed biblical truth (rather than reaffirmed worldly cultural preference).

In her book Eve in Exile: And the Restoration of Femininity,  Rebekah Merkle writes an excellent exhortation to Christian women of our day. There are four sections in the book,  I'll give a description and perhaps some comments on each one.

Section one: Two Distractions.  The chapters within this section deal with two ways that will NOT fix the problem of ascertaining how Christian women can fulfill their purpose in life. I found it fascinating that one of the 'distractions' Merkle critiques is the way some women try to deal with the problem by looking to the past, a particular period of history, the Austen era, for example, a time when gender roles were very distinct.  This is not a biblical method for obtaining true femininity as the Bible doesn't tell us isolate ourselves in  our own little bubble of some other time period.  We have to live in this age, though this age will not define us, nor will the ages of the past, which weren't actually that great anyway. 

The second way, and this seems to be the most popular one, is to make yourself number one.  Merkle demonstrates the selfishness of this view very plainly,"….. Our society has clearly ruled that when it comes down to a choice between your husband and children on the one side and you on the other….the right choice, the noble choice, the wise choice, is always you.  You do what makes you happy.  You do what makes you fulfilled.  You don't let anyone get in the way of your dreams.  You don't settle.  You deserve it.  You go girl!....If that baby is going to get in the way of your dreams or your pursuits, then obviously that baby must be eliminated.  Nothing must stand in the way of your aspirations..   Your personal hopes, desires, or opportunities trump all else, and sacrificing your dreams for someone else is not seen as noble, it's seen as ludicrous.  If you lay down your 'life' for another, you certainly won't get respect or admiration from our society, and you will definitely get disdain.  By many, your choice will just be seen as downright offensive."

Section Two deals with the history of feminism for the past few hundred years or so.  Don't worry, it's not a boring read.  It's fascinating and sad at the same time and Merkle adds plenty of interesting commentary, including an interesting theory on what jumpstarted each wave of feminism:  Feminist movements always seemed to happen when women saw their place in society as being an ornamental rather than doing any sort of really valuable work and they thought that the men were doing the really worthwhile things.  In the 1950s housekeeping became easier and easier with all kinds of conveniences being invented.  Instead of seeing it as a blessing and making the most of their work and being creative with it, women became bored and "fussy" and became very demanding.  "This is fundamentally at odds with biblical teaching on what is an obedient (and effective) response to injustice.  Christ did not tell us that when someone takes our coat we should loudly demand its immediate return….When we are reviled He did not tell us to make sandwich boards and picket.  When we are struck, we are not told to strike back harder.  When Paul was imprisoned, he didn't commence organizing a prison riot or, for that matter, go on a hunger strike.  And yet, aggressively demanding that everyone give women what is owed to us has been the entire campaign strategy of the feminist movement from Day One."

Section Three:  What Are Women Designed For?   Addresses the way women can find true fulfillment.  "If God designed women for a specific purpose, if there are fixed limits on the feminine nature, then surely it would follow that when we are living in accordance with those limits and purpose we will be in our sweet spot.  That's where we'll shine.  Where we'll excel.  And where we will find the most fulfilment."  We were not created to be the center of attention.  We were made to work, to help, to be fruitful, to glorify…etc.

Let me pause here and say my usual disclaimer:  Of course, I didn't necessarily agree with everything in this book.  For instance, and I'm sure that Merkle didn't mean this, but sometimes some of her argument came across as though men merely preach the Good News and the truths of God's Word while the women are the ones who live it out and embody it.  But that's not correct.  Men are supposed to live out the truth also.  I think that Merkle may have been trying too hard to describe our women's work as a unique thing. Our work doesn't have to be outstandingly unique, if it's of God then it's a privilege to be able to do it, unique or not. She also sounded rather mystical in some of her attempts to describe women's work and how great it is, I didn't follow all that she was saying especially in some of the chapters toward the end of the book.

Okay, back to the description:

Section Four:  Living Out Our Design.  Merkle exhorts women to be creative with what God has given them to do.  She emphasizes that,  "This teaching isn't meant to keep the women out of sight; it's describing the way that they can shine the light of the gospel on a lost and sinful culture.  We have to trust God here, because oftentimes we want to be the ones to decide what will be a good witness.  God says, 'Here's how to be a good testimony,' and we think He doesn't understand the nuances of modern society the way we do."   And then she also clarifies that "A household is bigger than the house itself, and as Paul describes the duties of a wife and mother, it is clear that her duties are defined by the people she is surrounded by and not simply her street address."  Keeping one's household doesn't not necessarily involve not having a job outside the building that a wife calls "home" but it means that "home", the people in  it, are her priority, her focus, and if other things become the priority then they are distractions, not worthy goals.

Using those four sections Merle really gets one thinking about our God-given job as women and how we can best fulfill that service to the best of our ability.  When we see that we can best please our Maker by doing what He made us to do then we have something to work toward. We are here to please our Savior, not ourselves, and He Himself tells us, in His Word, how we can be pleasing to Him and fulfill our God-glorifying purpose.  Overall I really liked this book.  And Merkle is an excellent writer, she keeps the attention (especially because of her sense of humor and sarcasm), and continually pulls one's perspective back to God's Word and His purpose rather than our own.  It was a very enjoyable and thought provoking read.


Many thanks to the folks at Canon Press for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and at canonpress.com

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

How could Hudson Taylor have imagined, for example, that the robbery that left him in such distress upon this journey was to result in the deliverance of the entire mission he was yet to found, during a period of financial danger?  How could he suppose that the upset of all his plans and the severance of a partnership in service more precious than any he had ever known was to prove the crowning blessing of his life on the human side, bringing him into association and at last union with the one of all others most suited both to him and his work? 


But so it is God leads.  His hand is on the helm.  We are being guided even when we feel it least.  The closed door is as much His providence as the open, and equally for our good and the accomplishment of His own great ends.  And one learns at last that it is not what we set ourselves to do that really tells in blessing so much as what He is doing through us when we least expect it.

- Dr. and Mrs Howard Taylor


Quote from their book:



The Growth of a Soul: Hudson Taylor in the Early Years

Monday, November 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

Yes, that is how it ever has been, ever must be with the people of God.  Until we are carried quite out of our depth, beyond all our own wisdom and resources, we are not more than beginners in the school of faith.  Only as everything fails us and we fail ourselves, finding out how poor and weak we really are, how ignorant and helpless, do we begin to draw upon abiding strength.  "Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee," not partly in Thee and partly in himself.  The devil often makes men strong, strong in themselves to do evil…. The Lord on the contrary makes His servant weak, puts him in circumstances that will show him his own nothingness, that he may lean upon the strength that is unfailing.  It is a long lesson for most of us, but it cannot be passed over until deeply learned.  And God Himself thinks no trouble too great, no care too costly to teach us this.   

- Dr and Mrs. Howard Taylor


Quote from their book:


See more quotes on my quote collection blog:  https://snickerdoodlesquotes.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories

I became interested in reviewing this book when I saw a preview of it online.  365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories (inspired by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut's Story of the Bible) illustrated by Alessia Girasole is geared towards children ages 3 and up and, from what I saw in the preview text online, it looked like it might be a pretty good resource to have for teaching kids. 

Upon first examining the book I was very pleased to see that they didn't seem to be trying to cut out the more gruesome and sad parts of the Bible.  Some of it struck me as sadly amusing, mainly because of the illustrations.  To give an example, one of the 'stories' gives the account of the 'scoffing' nobleman who didn't believe Elisha when he said that food would be sold at extremely low prices the following day (there was a severe famine in the land).

 The nobleman died the following day from being trampled by people rushing toward the food.  This is illustrated (bloodlessly) in the picture accompanying the story.  It amused me because the pictures in the book are rather 'cutsey' looking cartoons and are geared more for very young children and here is this illustration of a man being trampled by a bunch of people! It also struck me funny because the back of this book describes it as being a way to make "bedtime reading a delightful learning and faith-building experience for both you and your kids." 

One of those 'delightful' stories happens to be one that ends with that ends in this way: "He was knocked to the ground by the crowd and crushed to death."  Sweet dreams kids! Just kidding.  It's good for kids to learn the truth, and it will probably be a good discussion starter about belief in what God says, assuming that you want a discussion started at bedtime.  Or you could just read the next two stories after that.  I say two because if you are reading on, in order to end on a happier note, you won't want to end on the next story either as it ends with a man being smothered!  An illustration is provided for that one as well though it only shows the man ABOUT to be smothered, not in the process of being smothered (if that's any comfort!). 

Sadly, though, there were several exceptions to their accurate accounts of events in the Bible. I'll give three examples:

1. The sections that give the account of Gideon's life end with the statement, "There were, at different times, fifteen judges over Israel.  But of them all, Gideon had the most wisdom, courage, and faith."  Where did they get that from? Do they even remember what happened later in Gideon's life? Gideon requested that people give him gold, "And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel played the harlot after it there; and it became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. "(Jdg 8:27)  That doesn't give the impression that Gideon was even close to being the best judge of Israel.

2. When speaking of the account of David and Bathsheba, this book says that when David saw her "He loved her and wanted her to be his wife" and so he had her husband Uriah killed.  No… David committed adultery with Bathsheba before having her husband killed and he apparently had no intention of taking Bathsheba for his own wife until he had learned that she was pregnant and couldn't set things up to make it seem as though Uriah was the father. That's when he had Uriah killed.  The people who put this together didn't have to go into great detail of course, but they didn't have to resort to giving inaccurate Biblical history.   

3. The same with the account of Saul in the cave.  This book says that he rested in the gave while David and his men were hiding in there (it even has a picture of Saul wrapped in a blanket sleeping in the cave), and that David cut a corner of Saul's robe while he was sleeping.  But, that of course was not what Saul was doing.  They could have said that he was "using the bathroom" or "relieving himself" and let parents do the explaining.  Or they could have just said that he was in a cave. But say that the Scriptures say something that they did not say!

One more thing, and this is somewhat minor, the words used in the book could have been dumbed down a bit more,  down to the level of a little kid's intellect.  Instead of saying, "He remained there", they could have said, "He stayed there."  Or Instead of "He wept", they could have said "He cried" and so on.  Not only would it make it easier for little kids to understand but it would make it more consistent with other parts of the book where they actually did change it to more modern vernacular.  They  used statements like, "It was stinky", "Come on" and "You're phonies!".  So why do that with only some of the text and yet leave others that are easily changed to something simpler?

The pictures are interesting and kids like looking at them (a couple of my little brothers seem to like them), they generally fit well with the stories. though not all of them are accurate.  I'm pretty sure that Aaron should be illustrated as being older than Moses, not younger (Moses has grey hair and Aaron has brown hair in this book).  I mainly wish that they had chosen not to depict Christ in the illustrations, or at least not to show His face.  That would be more respectful.  Instead they make Him look like a European man with long hair. 

Overall, though, the people who put this book together seem to have done a pretty good job in many of the 'stories' they recount, sticking closely to the text of the Bible in their summaries.  My little brother enjoyed listening to some of it and talking about the pictures.  Just be ready to read it with scrutiny, and with verbal criticism and explanation to make sure that your kids are getting accurate information.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review


My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
***

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and at Christianbook.com

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs - Jon C. Laansma and Randall X. Gauthier

Though I'm still a beginner in learning Koine Greek, I still like to snap up any Koine Greek language resource that I can when any becomes available to review - especially since my sisters are more advanced (and more faithful in) in the study of Greek than I am.  I like to find various language resources to use as Christmas presents for them and my dad (a pastor).  In The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs: Aids for Readers of the Greek New Testament is an excellent idea!

Upon receiving the book, I began having doubts as to whether I should actually have requested to review it, I became afraid that it was rather over my head - my fault because I have not kept up with my Koine Greek.  But in studying the book more closely, it proves to have great potential as an extremely valuable resource in New Testament reading, and one that I will definitely give to one of my more advanced family members for Christmas.

This book compiles a list of difficult and irregular Greek verb principal parts, and also has a list of the verbs with their compounds (frequency of NT occurrence of each compound verb also noted). This listing of how many times each individual verb appears in the New Testament makes it easier to better prioritize the verbs that are being committed to memory.   If a verb occurs a lot in the New Testament it makes sense to learn it at the beginning of study rather than at an advanced stage of Greek.  As the authors put explain, "What good is it to know that trecho is glossed I run if what one actually sees while reading is edramen?"(I made an attempt at transliterating the Greek words they mention as I don't want to figure out how to get the Greek font). Laansma and Gauthier look to remedy that problem for Koine Greek learners who are moving out of the beginners stage of Greek and who frequently practice their Greek by actually reading large portions of the New Testament (instead of mere isolated verses). 

I recommend this book highly for those learning Koine Greek!


Many thanks to the folks at Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book to review (My review did not have to be favorable).

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
*****

This book may be purchased at (among other places) Amazon and Christianbook.com

Friday, November 3, 2017

Irenaeus by Simonettta Carr


Like all of the books in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, this one is a great introduction to its subject. In this book, one is introduced to Irenaeus of Lyon, a Christian who lived during the early days of the church, his mentor was Polycarp who had known the Apostle John. Irenaeus helped keep Christians of his day anchored to God's Word by speaking and writing against many heresies that were spreading at the time.

I really like that Carr doesn't just tell the factual details of the lives she writes about but also delves into some theological concepts and even doctrinal controversies.  It's good for young people to learn details about the defense of the right interpretation of God's word.  In this volume, she does a good job of explaining some of the heresies that Irenaeus fought against, including providing some details of his critique of the bad hermeneutic of people who took the Scriptures out of context, twisting them to say other things: "He gave the example of a poem made up of separate lines from different books by the Greek poet Homer.  The lines had nothing to do with each other, but together they made up a poem Homer had never intended to write.  A casual reader would think the poem was really Homer's."  I found it amusing to find that, when Irenaeus had critiqued some ridiculous and confusing Gnostic teachings, he ended his written explanation of their views with an exclamation akin to our "Eek!" expressing his view of the absurdity of what they believed. Apparently Irenaeus had a sense of humor.

As usual, Carr's book has many illustrations imagining what events in Irenaeus' life may have looked like, and also many photographs of places and things, including historical artifacts from that day, as well as some pictures of more recent statues of what others imagined how Irenaeus and Polycarp appeared. There is not a lot of information about Irenaeus' life but Carr does a good job of explaining the things that we do know about him and also inferring things that might have been the case based on what we know of that period in time.  All in all I think this is a good summarizing biography.

I think it's perfectly fine for kids to read and hear works of fiction, but I think it's also good to let them learn about real Christians who lived in the past.  Real people who lived and died fighting the good fight of faith.  What better way to put one's imagination to work than contemplating real events, real Christian people and the teachings of God's Word?  This book is one of a series of books that are a good way to have young people (and older people) practice doing that.


Many thanks to the folks at Cross Focused Reviews for sending me a free review copy of this book!  My review did not have to be favorable.

My rating:  Five out of Five Stars
*****

This may be purchased at (among other places) Amazon.com

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mrs. Oswald Chambers - By Michelle Ule

The only thing I knew about Oswald Chambers was that he wrote the devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, which I looked through some years ago (I don't remember if I read it all the way through) and liked some of the concepts that I found in it.  When I saw this biography of his wife I thought that it would be a good way to know more about the couple. It  really informed me quite a bit and gave me a better picture of these two people, or a rather it gave me the only picture I've had so far as I didn't know really anything at all about them.

Gertrude Annie Hobbes, known as "Biddy" (Oswald's nickname for her), was not expecting the life that God had planned for her. She had trained for and had become excellent at taking shorthand notes and was a good typist as well.  Her goal was to be the first female secretary to the prime minister of England. God had other plans.  She and Oswald Chambers initially 'fell' in love on a ten day voyage to America.   Oswald was a  volunteer circuit lecturer for the League of Prayer and had been asked by her mother to look after her daughter on the trip.  He was already acquainted with Biddy, but this trip solidified a friendship between the two and initiated a correspondence between them and visits, which led to their becoming engaged and then married. 

They served the Lord together, starting a Bible training college for the League of Prayer and after some years, during World War I they left England to work with the YMCA in Egypt ministering to soldiers stationed there. They brought their only child, Kathleen, with them.  I really appreciated that instead of seeing Kathleen as secondary to the primary work of ministering to other people, and sending her off to boarding school or having her live with relatives or another family (as other couples involved in mission work sometimes did), they saw her as their own God given responsibility and another person whom God gave them to minister to and so they took her with them.  While there, Biddy transcribed Oswald's messages in shorthand, as she had done in England.

After some time of ministering in Egypt Oswald died and Biddy was left a widow and with a young child to look after.  Biddy didn't despair and kept on with the work that she believed God still wanted her to do.  She took over some of the teaching sessions Oswald had held and often used his works, reading out loud from them.  Some time after World War I ended Biddy and Kathleen returned home and Biddy continued the work she had started while in Egypt, of typing up and translating her shorthand notes of Oswald's lectures  (she had trunks/boxes full of them) and sorting through and compiling them into pamphlets and books.  She saw it as a God-ordained ministry granted to her, to organize and publish her husband's preaching.  Late in life Biddy ended up having some mental problems (not fully explained) and she died in 1966 at the age of eighty two.

 I want to mention that I had some concerns about Biddy and Oswald's beliefs.  But let me say first that this biography seems more like an overview of the couple and their faith,  so I am not sure the extent of their beliefs in most of these things.  I'll mention a few of my concerns.  First, they were associated with the Holiness movement, and from what I understand that is associated with believing that Christians can attain perfect sinless lives on this earth despite having yet unglorified bodies.  But Biddy and Oswald never seemed to think that they ever attained that perfection, at least from what I learned of them in this book. 

Second, they had some weird views of how God directs His people.  They used isolated verses from the Bible to confirm some of their decisions. For instance, while in Egypt, having gone there before sending for Biddy and Kathleen, Oswald was trying to figure out where they would live. I quote from the book,  "Oswald possessed no funds to build but expected God to supply what he required.  God confirmed the decision when Oswald dread the Daily Light verse that night, taken from 2 Chronicles 6:18: 'Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!'"  That was just plain weird. I think that Chambers was highly in error in treating the Scriptures that way and that he was treading on dangerous ground.  That type of hermeneutics seems to make people lean toward becoming modern false 'prophets'.  Saying, "thus sayeth the Lord!" when the Lord has not said it (see Ezek 22:28).  If the context of the Scriptures do not matter, and if we do not use a literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic then the Scriptures can be made to say anything we want them to say!

And lastly, Biddy 'preached' at times, and that to men.  She led some of the study sessions through the Bible (including leading some of the Sunday sessions), and had other studies while in Egypt.  I am not sure if she used Oswald's lectures (reading them out loud as she often did for the classes she took over) or if she came up with her own.  I felt rather uncomfortable with that as it goes against what the Bible says about women not speaking in a teaching position in an assembly of the church that includes men (and she mainly would have had men as her audience out there in Egypt).

Despite concerns like the above I still liked this biography, it was well written and quite interesting.  And I still liked Biddy and Oswald overall and thought that they were good examples, especially in realizing the sovereignty of God in life, and their submission to whatever He ordained to happen in their lives (even recognizing His hand in the interruptions of daily life).  I'll end with a quote (from Oswald I think) that I particularly liked, "We have to trust in God whether He sends us money or not, whether He gives us health or not.  We must have faith in God, not in His gifts."


Many thanks to the folks at Baker Books for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)!  


My Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars
****

This book may be purchased at places like Amazon and Christianbook.com