Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: The Alphabet of Grief

Andrea Raynor's The Alphabet of Grief: Words to Help in Times of Sorrow (Waterbrook, 2017) is a short, compact book but is an invaluable guide to navigating the process of grief. Written in a warm, approachable way that combines pastoral excellence with scriptural integrity, Raynor uses each letter of the alphabet to present a systematic way of coping with loss. The stories are honest, the emotions are raw, and, at the end of it, you will emerge a stronger person because of the hope dispensed by Raynor's writing. The author does an excellent job of using biblical stories and principles in a way that avoids platitudes, truisms, and other cliches and does not knock them over the reader's head. This is a highly recommended text for pastors and parishioners who are trying to understand morality in the scope of eternity.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: The King James Study Bible

The King James Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2017) is a full-color, magnificent Bible for the lover of the KJV. With a beautiful, flexible leather lay-flat design and large text, this Bible will make a fantastic resource for those interested in going deeper in God's Word. It has a colorful design, study footnotes with pictures and aids that move from interpretation to application, and introductions to each book with a corresponding outline. The back of the book has study helps, such as a concordance and maps.

I was very impressed by this study Bible. However, the pages in this Bible are somewhat thin and consequently cause the pages to stick together. Additionally, the width of the Bible is somewhat thick, although it is a manageable size. Center column references and full color pictures are certainly a welcomed addition. Overall, this is a fantastic Bible if you want something that possesses both content and beauty.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

The NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Zondervan, 2017) is a fantastic resource to peek behind the pages of Scripture and discover the context behind the text. This hardcover Bible is, first and foremost, bulky. It is thick and filled with information on the background of seemingly mundane Bible stories. Introductions to each book place it within its historical context and frame it in a way that prepares readers to enter its setting. There are maps, diagrams, charts, and pictures of archaeological finds that attest to the historicity of the biblical narrative.

This is an excellent Bible that should be on the shelves of all scholars, pastors, and laypeople who want to explore the Bible deeper. I used Luke 15, the familiar parable of the prodigal son, as a test case, and found that its cultural background notes indeed went beyond the surface level interpretations. Most readers will find these notes interesting and will want you to dig deeper into the world of the Bible. The goal of this study Bible is to make you more fascinated with Scripture—and it indeed succeeds at this task.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: Thank You for Arguing

In Thank You for Arguing (Three Rivers Press, 2017), rhetorician Jay Heinrichs presents a readable yet comprehensive overview on the art of argument. Now in its third edition, this newly-revised version of the popular text features an "Argument Lab" at the end of the book, allowing students to practice their argumentation skills upon completion of the book. There is also a glossary of rhetorical strategies, helpful for quick and easy reference.

This is an excellent book that I wish I had when I was taking rhetoric classes. The author uses a humorous style and many real-world and pop culture examples, such as how to argue your way out of a traffic ticket. As Heinrichs argues, all the world requires rhetoric, so why not learn how to win everything from a presidential debate to a sibling argument. There are many pullouts with applications of his text—and he even analyzes the rhetorical devices used in the book itself! Overall, this is a very valuable text for casual readers and scholars alike, a perfect introduction to becoming an amazing arguer.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Blogging for Books program.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

What is God like? Is he the angry, violent God that we read about in the Old Testament? Or is he the picture of a loving, compassionate Father that we see in the New Testament? In Brian Zahnd's Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Good News, a pastor tries to correct Christians' false views of God. The book is named after revivalist Jonathan Edwards' most famous sermon for a reason; this sermon that had a profound impact on American evangelicalism also influenced how many American Christians view God today—an angry God.

The initial concern that readers may have is, "But God actually commanded genocide, didn't he?" Zahnd excellently avoids falling into heretical traps such as Arianism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism. He is careful to jump to far conclusions and uses Scripture to back up his points. Without ignoring the passages of Scripture that show God's angry side, he unpacks a Christological argument for how the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ finally closed the book on God's history of violence, replacing it instead with pure, true love.

For those looking to more fully understand God's nature, this is an excellent place to start. It is theologically packed yet not exhaustive, serving well as an introductory text. Perhaps we can all step away deeper in love with the God whose loving embrace holds us together.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Blogging for Books program.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Ever wonder what an award-winning Bible translator does on a Sunday morning? As Kingfishers Catch Fire (WaterBrook Multnomah, 2017) is a collection of Eugene Peterson's sermons and musings from his years as a church leader. Subtitled "a conversation on the ways of God formed by the words of God," this anthology of Peterson's homiletic hits seeks to develop our spirituality in a way of deeper holiness. This book is organized around a canonical structure, almost like a pseudo lectionary. It is as if we are invited into Peterson's church for front-pew seats on a Sunday morning service, eavesdropping on what he has to say to his congregation.

The initial impression—wow! Peterson is warm, didactic, and authentic as he interprets and applies the Scriptures. This book is targeted toward seminarians and pastors, but it can easily find a resonant audience from laypersons. A valuable resource for personal spiritual formation that, with God's help, can spill into how we shape those we shepherd.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Blogging for Books program.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Real Artists Don't Starve

The proposition of Real Artists Don't Starve (2017, Thomas Nelson) is intriguing. It begins with a shocking discovery about Renaissance artist Michelangelo. While he may be seen as the stereotypical "starving artist," he was actually paid a fortune for his murals on the Sistine Chapel. This led author Jeff Goins to the conclusion that being an artist does not mean succumbing to the "Starving Artist" mold. Instead, he contrasts this with the "Thriving Artist" of what he calls the New Renaissance. The book presents practical principles for becoming an artist who thrives, embracing countercultural mentalities of creativity.

Make no mistake—this book is not a how-to on starting a work from beginning to end. Rather, Real Artists Don't Starve presents a method, a mindset in which to enter a creative process. As a musician, composer, and graphic designer, I benefited from many of these ideas that I often saw as wrong, such as that "stealing" is a good thing. This book does have a self-help vibe to it, and its publication by a Christian organization hints at the betterment of life promised by the Gospel. Overall, this book is an excellent read for existing artists who want to go deeper in their craft.