February 8, 2014 | Comments Off
The Why Didn’t You Warn Me? website turns seven on February 12! How can that be? Seems like just yesterday I was writing the book and creating the website. I’ve appreciated your support over the years. We’ve shared lots of ideas and built a bit of a community in the process. No, I’m not going away. I still have plenty to say.
But I DO want to celebrate. So, I’m going to give away at least one copy of Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members on February 12. In fact, I’ll give away one copy for every 10 legitimate comments we receive through midnight Pacific Time on February 12. So, it you’d like to be a winner, leave a comment on this post. (Make sure you leave a legitimate email address on the comment form so we can reach you.) And stay tuned. I’ll announce the winners on February 14.
Also, for the month of February, I’m lowering the price for Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members to $5.99. That’s a $3.00 savings on every book. So if your church or small group leaders need this resource, now is the time to order!
January 30, 2014 | Comments Off
My primary interest these days is spiritual and therefore whole person transformation. I spend a lot of time reading, meditating, and praying about how best to help others become all they were created to be. And frankly, to help myself.
A few years ago I discovered both new and older teaching on the human spirit. I learned how the spirit is the control center of the person and how by engaging and growing up our spirits we can grow, change, and become the person God created us to be. That’s been pretty effective. Differentiating between the soul and spirit has been revolutionary for some. But in the back of my mind, I kept wondering about the heart.
Scripture talks about the heart being the center and source even more than it does the spirit. The words used in both the Old and New Testaments for heart are the same whether referring to the physical beating heart or the spiritual metaphorical heart. That has challenged me to read more. Consider where the heart fits in. What I’ve found is that while there isn’t a lot of agreement, what we do know is that both the physical and spiritual heart are more critical to health than most of us have considered in the past.
So it was with great expectation that I agreed to review Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation by Robert Saucy from Kregel Academic. If you’re a regular reader here, you know I review a lot of Kregel books and generally find them to be excellent in both scholarship and usefulness. This book is no exception. Except that it’s very dense, very scholarly, very biblical, and thus, a slow read. That’s not all bad. It’s just a warning. You won’t breeze through it. You will want to linger, think about what he’s saying, and how you might apply it to your life.
Saucy begins with several chapters of discussion of the spirit, soul, body, and heart. He builds a step-by-step case that the heart is the control center of the person, attempting to debunk the theories of those who place the spirit at the center. He backs it up both biblically and scientifically. Then he spends the rest of the book discussing we can transform the heart through renewing the mind, meditation, changing habits, and community. Hmm, those are the same things I teach, and I know they work.
This book would be an excellent resource for pastors, small group directors, lay prayer ministers, and anyone else who is serious about change. It isn’t an easy read, but I think you’ll find it rewarding.
January 20, 2014 | Comments Off
If you’re a pastor, Bible study leader, or student looking for an excellent Old Testament survey, this is it. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible by Jason S. DeRouchie (ed.) is another of the gorgeous Kegel Academic publications. It’s simple enough for the non-seminary trained among us, but deep enough that even well trained pastors will find insights and help.
The goal of the 17 authors is to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament. They point out that what we know as the Old Testament was all Jesus had. The New Testament wasn’t written until after His resurrection. Seen from that perspective, it’s helpful to see the progression and purpose of God’s covenant in redemptive history. It uses the same progressive revelation as the Hebrew Tanak, which means the order is law, prophets, then writings. Each chapter synthesizes three to six themes, is gospel-saturated, and offers one page summarizing the “who, when, where, why” of the biblical book.
The book, printed on Kregel’s lovely almost-slick paper, is filled with gorgeous photos, maps, and charts that will be useful in teaching or leading. (I’d love to have a CD of these to use in Power Point presentations.) It also includes quotations from various Ancient Near East (ANE) writings that parallel the Old Testament. These are fascinating and might make good discussion in a small group. Call outs offer additional information, tidbits, and challenges. This is one book that will see a lot of use in my work.
July 16, 2013 | Comments Off
It’s another Charts book! This time on Paul. In April I reviewed Kregel Academic’s book of Charts on the Book of Hebrews. I loved it, and feel the same about this book. I wish I had had this book when I took my New Testament class last year. It sure would have made my life easier.
Like the book of Charts on Hebrews, this book is chock full of information. Everything you ever wanted to know about Paul, his writings, his life, and his times. There are charts on Roman social and military structures; the Greco-Roman religions, cults, and philosophies; first century Judaisms; Paul’s life and ministries; lists of women and men in Paul; accusations against Paul, Old Testament quotes and allusions; key words in each book; snapshots by book; theological concepts including Spirit, sin, death and judgment, soteriorology, faith, and more; and even a brief comparison of the old and new perspectives on Paul. There is also a brief section on the Pauline authorship of the disputed books.
So what does this all mean to you? As a pastor or leader, this book will save you hours of research. It’s quick and easy to use, and contains much of the background information you’ll need to teach, lead, or answer random questions. I love these books. I know you will too.
May 27, 2013 | Comments Off
Did you ever wonder what Jesus’ contemporaries understood about the Messiah or how they missed him? With the advantage of hindsight, it seems so obvious that he was the fulfillment of all the prophesies. How did they miss it?
But we start deductively, knowing who Jesus is from the NT and therefore seeing the clear proof in the Old Testament prophesies. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King begins with an inductive approach, looking at the texts and seeing where they lead us. In examining the evidence, Jesus the Messiah assumes that the NT has not been written (giving us the deductive advantage). Rather, it uses only Hebrew writings, asking how those passages of promise were read in light of the whole. It provides a gradual unfolding, moving progressively from implicit to explicit. It wasn’t until the time of Jesus that all of the key elements were in place to make a unity of it all. Jesus’ life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension finally completed the messianic puzzle. It just wasn’t clear until Jesus pulled it together.
The book is divided into three parts, which together make an excellent case for the messiahship of Jesus :
*Promises of a King, with contextual and canonical trajectories from the OT.
*Expectations of a King, focusing on the messianic promises evident in later extra-biblical but Jewish writings.
* Coming of a King, concentrating on christological readings of the First Testament.
This is not a book for just anyone, although it is for anyone who is willing to invest a little sweat equity. It wrestles with the historical, theological, and literary aspects of prophesy. At a minimum, you need to be fairly well versed in Scripture and hermeneutics. The authors’ goal is to help readers comprehend and appreciate the dynamics of messianic prophesy and fulfillment. Every messianic passage is exegeted, providing an excellent reference for pastors, Bible study leaders, and the curious. So far I’ve used to to simply check out a prophesy in a passage I’m teaching. It’s a great reference if you don’t want to wade through the entire thing.
I must confess that I had a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous, with a high quality semi-slick paper and color illustrations, charts, and maps. It’s well foot-noted and just excellent. But it’s so excellent that I had a hard time reading it. I read with a pencil, ruler, and post-it notes, thoroughly annotating as I go. This book was just too pretty to deface. But I got over it, and loved it. Thanks Kregel Academic.
April 28, 2013 | Comments Off
Sheryl Giesbrecht’s life sounds a lot like mine. Maybe a lot like yours, too. Maybe like someone you are ministering to. Do you ever get the idea that your lot is somehow harder than everyone else’s? I do. I compare my problems with my friend’s successes. I compare my not-so-good health to my friend who can walk four miles a day. And yes, I always come up short.
Why do we do this? Why do we think, “I’m the only one…” You know, we aren’t alone. Elijah whined the same thing to God in 1 Kings 19:10 following the biggest event of his life which was followed by a threat on his life. He ran away, and when God asked what he was doing there in the middle of the desert, “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” Do you ever feel this way? I sure do. I try so hard to do all the right things but feel as if I’m getting slapped down at every turn.
So what does this have to do with Sheryl? She’s written a very accessible book called Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down. On one level, it’s a chronicle of a life much like yours and mine. That is, a life full of twists and turns, dips and bumps. And a few head-on crashes. The kind of life that makes us want to throw in the towel, crawl under the broom tree with Elijah, and whine: “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (I Kings 19:4). Instead, Sheryl offers lessons and principles she learned along the way that put a bounce into her falls.
With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this would be a great study guide for a women’s group, especially for women who are facing life’s challenges. (Uh, yeah, all of us…) It would be useful in a recovery group or even a jail ministry. The truth is, we all face a whole lot more in life that we thought we signed up for. Sheryl’s book offers not only hope, but also practical strategies for becoming victorious.
You can learn more about Sheryl and her book at the LitFuse Group, which provided this book as part of Sheryl’s blog tour.
April 16, 2013 | Comments Off
Last month I reviewed Sue Edwards’ Bible Study on Revelation. This month this busy woman has released a study on the book of Ephesians as part of Kregel Publications’ Discover Together series.
This insightful Bible study uses the example of Paul’s church in Ephesus to show readers how they can be victorious Christians, living in God’s Word, and free from sin. Like the other studies in the Discovery series, the Ephesians edition includes tips for both individual or group use, inspirational sidebars, and short, 3-5 minute teaching videos. Scan the video QR code in the book with a smart phone or visit the series website to watch Sue provide historical and cultural background, teach important truths found in each week’s lesson, or ask thoughtful questions to encourage deeper discussion. There is also a free leader’s guide available online.
You can also join the online Bible study (4/15 -5/7) with Sue Edwards! And invite your friends to join you.
Sue will be posting weekly on the Year of Discovery Facebook Page and interacting with groups and individuals around the country going through the study at the same time. Women will be able to discuss the study with each other and ask questions via Facebook. Edwards will be going through the Ephesians study April 15 – June 17 online study. The study kicked off with a Facebook launch party!
Completing each lesson requires about one-and-a-half hours. Readers still receive in-depth Bible study but with a minimum time commitment. For those who desire a more thorough study, including an opportunity to learn more about the history, culture and geography related to the Bible, Edwards has provided “Digging Deeper” questions. Answering these questions may require outside resources such as an atlas, Bible dictionary or concordance and challenge readers to examine complex theological issues and differing views more closely.
This book was provided by LitFuse.
April 2, 2013 | Comments Off
Wow! Wow! WOW! Did I say, “Wow!” First of all, I love the book of Hebrews. I’ve taught it and would teach it again in a minute. Especially with this book. Kregel Academic has several of these charts books, but I’ve never seen one before. You can be sure that from now on, a Charts book will be my first stop. So why do I love it?
(Remember, I’m a geek…) Charts on the Book of Hebrews by Herbert W. Bateman IV is 266 pages of charts. Charts on the book of Hebrews. Charts on the various theories of authorship. Charts on destination, recipients, and dating. Charts on genre and structure. Charts on canonicity. Charts on Old Testament quotes and allusions. Charts on the Jewish Cultic System. Charts on the Second Temple and the priesthood. Charts on theological themes in Hebrews. Charts on interpretive issues and textual issues. And more. Much more.
The thing I love about the chart structure is that there are no wasted words. No prose to wade through. When I’m prepping to lead a study, I seldom have time to read or even skim through a bunch of commentaries. And even if I did, how would I fit in all I’ve learned? (I always over-prepare and then am frustrated I can’t share it all). With this book, I can scan for the info I need. Quickly. And if I take it to group with me, I have a handy, easy-to-use reference.
Check it out. It you’re a serious (or even semi-serious) bible study leader, you will love this book.
I often have a hard time finding materials for discipleship, especially discipleship aimed at motivating lifestyle changes. It’s just too easy to hide under “looking good” and “sounding good” these days. Wendy Alsup challenges this mindset with her book, The Gospel-Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood Through the Lens of the Gospel.
She suggests that we all have hidden problems, even while looking like (pretending like) we have it all together. The perceived need to do this, she says, is the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the Gospel. That is, the gulf between biblical promises and real life. Interesting. This is a concept I struggle with, and it’s where I’ve been living for the past several years as I contend to receive healing for my hip. How do I live a victorious, godly life in the midst of an ongoing challenge like this? And I know I’m not the only person facing such a challenge.Wendy addresses this tension straight on as she draws us back to God as our everything.
She also takes on the biblical feminist movement by teaching on the Hebrew term ezer, which means helper and is one of the names attributed to the Holy Spirit. She teaches us how to be biblical women in this highly honored position of helper without being doormats.
I would use this with a small group of women who want more of Jesus and more out of life. It’s an easy read, with a comfortable layout. But it’s also deep enough to generate good discussions. It would be perfect for a book group or small discipleship group.
I was invited to review this book by Litfuse Publicity Group.
March 25, 2013 | Comments Off
Is your small group considering a study on the book of Revelation? If so, you might want to consider a new study guide written by Sue Edwards, who also wrote the study on 1 Peter I reviewed last year. Revelation: Discovering Life for Today and Eternity is written for women, as are all of Sue’s studies. The content certainly doesn’t limit itself to women, but the book is probably a little too pretty for men. Seriously, it’s a beautiful teal and white design that will delight you as you study.
Sue has taken an interesting approach to this study of Revelation. She covers only the first three chapters (the letters to the seven churches) and the last two. While I always prefer to study a whole book, this approach certainly makes Revelation more accessible to those who don’t want to get caught up in all the judgments and wild stuff. It also keeps the book to nine lessons, which is more accessible for most groups. Since Sue writes from a pre-trib eschatology, she finds the middle of the book of little interest to Christians. I have to disagree with her here.
Published by Kregel Publications, the book contains QR codes that link to YouTube videos for short teachings. I like this because group members can watch on their own time, leaving group time for discussion and interaction. The questions contain a good mix of objective, interpretive, and application questions nicely blended throughout the study, as well as interesting historical notes and comments. Like the other Discover Together studies, this one offers tiered questions to allow readers to choose a depth of study that fits with their individual lifestyles or schedules, even if they vary by the week, month or season. She references other books, but not so much that you feel as if you’re flipping all over the bible. A free leaders’ guide is also available online. All in all, this is an interesting study. Take a look at it.