Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Jesus: A Theography

Let’s face it. The Bible is often viewed as a disjointed array of stories, events, laws, propositions, truths, ethical statements, and moral lessons. But as we will demonstrate in this book, the sixty-six books of the Bible are woven together by a single storyline. One of the best ways to look at the twenty-seven books of the New Testament may be to see them as a commentary on the Old Testament. The entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are unified by a common narrative. And once our eyes are opened to see that narrative, everything in both Testaments gels into a coherent, understandable, and amazing story. And what is that story? Well, it’s not enough to call it “salvation history” as many people do. No. It’s the story of Jesus Christ. The end product of biblical Christianity is a person— not a book, not a building, not a set of principles or a system of ethics— but one person in two natures (divine/ human) with four ministries (prophet/ priest/ king/ sage) and four biographies (the Gospels). But those four biographies don’t tell the whole story. Every bit of Scripture is part of the same great story of that one person and that one story’s plotline of creation, revelation, redemption, and consummation.

Sweet, Leonard; Viola, Frank (2012-10-02). Jesus: A Theography . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, is quite a book at 409 pages. A significant number of those pages consists of footnotes for each chapter. This immense “theography” of Jesus covers Christ, from eternity past to His second coming (and everything in between). It’s not only an objective study of Christ, but also very practical at times.

Honestly, Jesus: A Theography is a difficult book to review. I found some parts of the book very enjoyable, but other parts somewhat tedious. There are different perspectives taken throughout the book and I think that this ensures that every reader will find some enjoyment of Christ within its pages.

If you enjoy reading the Scriptures, there are references. If you enjoy types and symbols, these are considered. If you enjoy a historical view, historical aspects are presented. Plus, I think you will find much, much more. But, you can find all of these things in many books.

What makes Jesus: A Theography unique, is that it’s entirely focused on Christ. Not only Jesus of Nazareth, but the eternal Christ Jesus. Our Lord Jesus is so lovely, so vast, and so all-inclusive, there is no single book that can fully express Him. But, Jesus: A Theography gives us a wonderful view of Him, and it is rooted in the Scriptures.

I recommend this book to all saints, who desire to know our Lord more deeply.

Although, I received this book for free from Booksneeze, but I also purchased an electronic version, so that I could read the footnotes more easily, and so that I could share it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with theFederal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Book Review: The Voice New Testament (Kindle Edition)

The Voice New Testament by Ecclesia Bible Society

With so many Bible version already produced, I often wonder why anyone would create a new translation. Many of the translation available are too similar. But, if you are looking for a unique version of the Bible, you may be interested in The Voice New Testament. The Voice New Testament is certainly a unique translation of the New Testament, although it seems to have quite a few downfalls.

I didn’t read the entire Bible, word-for-word. I read some of my favorite books to get a feel for the Bible overall. I compared the translation to other translations, as well as the original Greek. Then, I attempted to read it to see if I could enjoy Christ through its words.

Previously most Bibles and biblical reference works were produced by professional scholars writing in academic settings. The Voice uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists. The goal is to create the finest Bible products to help believers experience the joy and wonder of God’s revelation. – Ecclesia Bible Society. The Voice New Testament (Kindle Locations 244-247). Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Some key features of The Voice New Testament are:

  • “Logos” or “Word” translated as Voice
  • “Christ” translated as “God’s Anointed, the Liberating King”
  • Daily reading plans
  • An introduction to the New Testament
  • Introductions to the books of the New Testament
  • Topical guide to the notes
  • Descriptions of the some of the titles of Jesus

My favorite aspect of The Voice New Testament is the translation of the Greek word “Logos” as “Voice”, rather than “Word”. I also enjoyed that it is easy to use and navigate, even in electronic format.

On the other hand, there are too many things that I don’t like about this Bible.

My first issue is the amount of words in italics. The words in italics are words added to the Scriptures, to make them more readable. Most versions have a few italics here an there, which is understandable, since languages don’t always translate smoothly. The italics in The Voice New Testament often impose the translators’ interpretation of the verses on the reader.

Secondly, I don’t like that the original grammar is changed in the translation. For example, a Greek noun is translated with an English verb. Translating Scripture, in this way, can change the original meaning.

Next, the notes are often superficial or impose the translators’ interpretation on the readers. Some of the notes and introductions had historical and cultural value. Unfortunately, much of the notes that I read, either restated the text in different words or interpreted it.

I am sure the translators had good intentions and believe that their interpretation is correct. But, I felt that the notes distracted me from the text and more importantly, distracted me from enjoying Christ through the text.

I could only recommend The Voice New Testament to those who find it the easiest Bible for them too read. Even then, I would not recommend it unless you had another version to read, as well. A few good aspects of this translation are overshadowed by the multiple ways that the translators’ interpretations are imposed on readers.

On the other hand, by all means, read The Voice New Testament for yourself. You may find that you disagree with my opinions. It may have more value to you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

God’s Story, Your Story by Max Lucado

There is one story and it is God’s story. He has invited us to be a part of that story. Max Lucado explains this in his book, “God’s Story, Your Story”:

Above and around us God directs a grander saga, written by his hand, orchestrated by his will, unveiled according to his calendar. And you are a part of it. Meaningless Munchkin? Not you. Stranded on the prairie in a creaky old farmhouse? No way. Your life emerges from the greatest mind and the kindest heart in the history of the universe: the mind and heart of God.”

I am convinced that Max Lucado is a skilled writer. He has a special way with words. He is able to take his life experiences and beautifully illustrate his points. Throughout “God’s Story, Your Story, Max Lucado uses personal stories, Scripture, and the stories of others to explore different aspects of this grand story that we are part of.

On of the most intriguing ideas in this book was this:

“As God’s story becomes your, closed doors take on a new meaning. You no longer see them as interruptions of your plan but as indications of God’s plan” (p. 123).

I think this quote describes someone who has denied self, and is consumed with the will of God. When we were included in the death and resurrection of Christ, His story did become our story. Likewise, our story became His.

Not every chapter was interesting. Some were interesting and some weren’t. Also, the flow from chapter to chapter didn’t feel smooth. At times, I was not even sure what point the author was trying to make. I enjoyed most of this book, but it wasn’t amazing or life-changing.

I received this book free from the publisher.


“Revise Us Again” by Frank Viola

Are we living by the script of Jesus Christ, or have we strayed from the script given to us by God? In “Revise Us Again”, Frank Viola points out some of the problems that he sees in the script, by which, many modern Christians are living. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of this book. Adam Verner is the narrator. He narrated the book well and had an enjoyable voice. The book was quite short and I was able to listen to it several times.

In my opinion, the major issue in this book is overcoming the differences that separate us as Christians. These differences have formed denominations and have hindered unity. Two of the differences mentioned in the book are: how God speaks through us and our spiritual conversation styles. If only we saw that many of our differences are given to us by God and reveal to us a fuller image of Christ. Other differences, the ones that are born of ourselves, should be laid aside if they hinder unity. Unfortunately, we are too focused on ourselves and not focused on Christ and His eternal purpose. If we were, we would be united in Him. Lets embrace our differences as Christians and learn to see Christ in others that are different from ourselves.

In my opinion the last chapter of the book is the most important. This chapter describes three gospels that people believe in. These three gospels are: libertinism, legalism, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Libertinism is attractive to the flesh, because you are free to sin. Legalism is attractive to the will, because it is your will accomplishing the work. Neither libertinism, nor legalism, are real gospels. Instead, they are false gospels. The true gospel, which the apostle Paul preached, is Christ. He is the narrow path, our highway of holiness.

The chapter on the dark night, was one that I wish I had read before I experienced it. This is a time when it seems as if God has walked off the stage. The dark night is like removing the spiritual training wheels. When you are reliant on the felt presence of God, He removes that feeling of His presence, and it can be world-shattering. We must keep faith in Him, even when we can’t feel His presence.

I enjoyed “Revise Us Again”. Not everything in the book moved me, but I think there is something in it for everybody. I am sure that, if you read it with an open mind, you will learn something from this book.

I received this book free from christianaudio.com through the christianaudio Reviewers program.

Penetrating the Darkness by Jack Hayford

"Satan Sowing Seeds" by Felicien Rop...

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In “Penetrating the Darkness”, Jack Hayford explains the authority Christ has given to us over the powers of darkness. We are not engaged in a war with flesh and blood, but with principalities in spiritual places. Thus, our warfare with the enemy is conducted by the Spirit, through prayer. Spiritual warfare in prayer is the major topic of this book. The audiobook that I listened to was narrated by Tim Lundeen. His voice was not boring, but soft enough to enjoy listening to during rides to and from work.

Some of the topics that the author discusses in this book are: Intercession, supplication, binding and loosing, and the keys to the kingdom. Jack Hayford uses a mix of Scripture, word study, and personal experience to explain these difficult topics. The author doesn’t distort these topics with a “name it and claim it” theology. Instead, the entire book is based on the power and the authority given to followers of Christ by His Spirit, through the blood and the cross.

If you are tired of being accused by the accuser, sick of seeing relationships ruined by the spirit of division, or angry at the blood of the righteous that has been spilled by the murderer, you will want to read this book. It will explain what Christ has given to you for the battle that the forces of heaven are engaged in against the forces of hell. If you think that spiritual warfare doesn’t involve you, then Satan will bring it to your door. You don’t have to be a victim. In Christ, each of us has been given the power to transform the lives of people around us and even the lives of those far away. We bring the light of Christ into the darkness, and the darkness cannot stand against it.

I received this book free from christianaudio.com through the christianaudio Reviewers program.

The Privilege of Persecution by Dr. Carl Moeller & David W. Hegg

Persecution of the Christians

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…The persecuted church is God’s gift to us in the West. Their understanding of God, their reverence for His Word, their dependence on prayer and worship, their daily immersion in authentic community, their biblical submission to authority, and their unbridled generosity of spirit can be tremendous resources for us if we only humble ourselves to adopt a spirit of learning” (p. 147).

This book is an opportunity for the church in the West to learn from our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church. Many of in the West have realized that there is something wrong with us. The persecuted church can be an example for us in how to meet in Christ. “Then Privilege of Persecution” will show you the major features that set the persecuted church apart from the church in the West.

I wish I could share with you all that I have learned in this book, but it would be too much for a book review. Here is a glimpse of what I found important in this book: They follow Christ, they enjoy prayer, oneness, slow your pace, and America no longer trusts God.

It is clear that the church in the West is in danger. We have lost our first love. The majority of the church in the world has to cling to Christ or face extinction. In the West, “Christians” can flourish without Christ. The persecuted church has shown its faithfulness in the face of death. We have shown our faithlessness in the face of wealth. Let’s return to Christ and in humility, learn what the persecuted church can teach us about what it really means to follow Him.

I received this book free from the publisher.

90 Days of God’s Goodness by Randy Alcorn

This is a wonderful book that I would recommend to all those who love Christ. It is a devotional book about God’s goodness in suffering. The narrator of the audiobook is Lloyd Jones, who’s voice is comforting in a book that describes so much suffering.

This book is based on Scripture, as well as stories of Christians who have suffered. At the end of each day is a prayer. Christ promised that all who followed Him would suffer and this book has many stories of Christians who have been faithful to Him, in spite of much suffering. Many of those mentioned in the book have found that they are now closer to God because of their suffering. Christ is our example of suffering, for He has suffered more than all of us combined.

There was more than one occasion in which this book caused tears to swell up in my eyes. It is a book of hope, joy, and love in the face of deep pain and sorrow. This is the hope, joy, and love that only Christ can give us.

Many think that suffering should be avoided at all costs. Indeed, suffering would be unbearable if our Father was not sovereign in it. Fortunately, He has measured all of our pains and troubles out for us and we can be assured there will not be too much nor too little of the trials in this life.

I received this book free from christianaudio.com through the christianaudio Reviewers program.

The Radical Disciple by John Stott

The Radical Disciple” is a decent book. I can’t say that there is anything extraordinary within its pages. Instead, it is a solid picture of a disciple of Christ. The narrator of the audiobook, Grover Gardner, had a pleasant voice and made the book enjoyable to listen to during drives to and from work.

The religious might take this book on how to be a disciple. That would be a grave error. This book should be an aid to disciples of Christ to remember some neglected aspects of the Christian life. That being said, there are eight chapters that describe some of the “neglected aspects of our calling”. These aspects are: noncomformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation care, simplicity, balance, dependence, and death. It can be said that there are many more aspects to being a disciple, but these are ones that the author views as most neglected in our day.

I would suggest this book to any Christian who wishes to have a more well-rounded view of what a disciple of Christ looks like. Do not take this book to be all that a disciple is, but use it to learn how to follow Christ in ways that you have neglected in the past.

The aspect that moved my heart the most was dependence. In a society where independence is championed, it is difficult to feel alright being dependent on another person. Independence is a result of pride and has no place in the life of a Christian. Some even pretend to be content with being dependent upon God, but refuse to be dependent upon other people. This is not true dependence, considering Christ lives in His People and expects us to live as a loving community. If you are to follow Christ, you will have to lay down your old man, and rejoice in your dependence on God and His People.

For those of us still learning Christ, this book might just show you something that you have missed in you walk with Christ.

I received this book free from christianaudio.com through the christianaudio Reviewers program.

 

Slave by John MacArthur

In “Slave” by John MacArthur, Christians are reminded that we are slaves to Christ. This is a fact that has been ignored by modern Christianity due to the Greek word “doulos” being mistranslated as servant. The translators most likely avoided the term “slave” because of the western preconceived notions of slavery. In western society, slavery is an offensive idea, because of the evil that has occurred in western slavery.

 

Slaves of Christ should be understood in the context of Greco-Roman and Hebrew slavery. Many slaves were treated very well, although, there were slaves that were treated cruelly. Slaves with wealthy and influential masters enjoyed a high status in society because of their masters’ statuses. If the Cesar’s slaves were proud to be his slaves, how much more should we enjoy being the slaves of Christ?

 

John MacArthur also supports his view that we are slaves of Christ with the testimonies of faithful Christians throughout history. Early Christians boasted of the freedom that they found in being slaves of Christ. Martyrs could not deny their Master, because He had purchased them. Throughout history Christians have enjoyed a privileged position as slaves of Christ.

 

If you are not a slave of Christ, then you are a slave of sin. Sin is a harsh taskmaster, whereas Christ is pleased to welcome His slaves as members of His own family. Indeed, slaves of Christ are His brothers and sisters.

 

Let us be faithful slaves while our Master is away, so that He will be overjoyed upon His return.

 

I received this book free from christianaudio.com through the christianaudio Reviewers program.

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson

Christians are called to pray without ceasing. In “In Constant Prayer” Robert Benson introduces to a new generation the “Daily Office”. Robert Benson roots the Daily Office in Jewish and Church history. It is a time to seek and worship God. The Daily Office consists of various set prayers, songs, psalms, and scriptures. The Daily Office can be said one time per day or many times per day.

 

Much of the book is devoted to Robert Benson’s life and how the Daily Office is an important part of it. He writes in a very down to earth and friendly style. I have no doubt that he has enjoyed the Daily Office and that he has found it a benefit to himself.

 

In my opinion, the book failed in its task. The Daily Office is far from being constant prayer. It is simply set times of prayer throughout the day with set prayers. Robert Benson did not back up his historical claims for the Daily Office with any references, therefore, I am not so convinced that it was important to the early Church. The Daily Office may be of some help if you need some help knowing how to pray, but it will not gain you intimacy with your Father. It seems to me a religious act which belongs with the old covenant. We should be able to go beyond set prayers and enjoy Christ with whatever He sets in our hearts.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Aids to “Revelation” by Watchman Nee

Watchman Nee

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…The reader of this book must keep his heart pure- that is to say, he is not to read it out of curiosity concerning future events. He ought instead to peruse its pages with the desire to know more of God’s word so that he may keep God’s will and may receive whatever He intends to give through His word.” – Watchman Nee

In Aids to “Revelation”, Watchman Nee opens our eyes to see that “…the book of Revelation is not one of secrecy but one of disclosure.” This opposes the modern view that Revelation is one of mysterious symbols that cannot be understood. To show that Revelation is indeed a revelation, Watchman Nee points out that more than half of the symbols in Revelation are already explained in its pages.

This book in not an in depth study of Revelation, but is rather, as its title states, an aid. Watchman Nee briefly examines the various interpretations of Revelation and decides that the Futurist position is most satisfactory. Although, He refuses to “argue which interpretation is right and which is wrong”. The true interpretation of Revelation is to be found in its own pages.

The key to understanding Revelation, according to the Watchman Nee, is in Revelation 1:19:

Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
(Rev 1:19 ESV)

Therefore, Watchman Nee divides the books into these three categories: Things that you have seen, those that are, and those that are to take place after this. As he describes these divisions, Watchman Nee explains how the prophecies of Daniel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John are all complementary and speak of the same things. In addition, Watchman Nee describes the meaning and significance of numbers and uses Scripture to reinforce the meaning of each number.

This book is a great encouragement to those of us who are overwhelmed by the complexity of modern interpretations and the belief that this book is not understandable. If you don’t agree with Watchman Nee’s understanding of Revelation, in spite of His Scripture references and use of historical sources, this book will at least encourage you that the book of Revelation was meant to be understandable for those who love God.

Let Us Pray by Watchman Nee

Watchman Nee

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In “Let Us Pray”, Watchman Nee brings us into the deep waters of the mystery of prayer. He reveals that “the prayer which a believer utters on earth is but the voicing of the Lord’s will in heaven”. Any expression of our own will that is not God’s will is not prayer at all and will be ineffective.

Using examples from Scripture, Watchman Nee shows the importance of prayer in the lives of Christians, because “all the actions in heaven are governed by the actions on earth!” Although, God has His eternal will, which He will complete, He will wait to act until His People join with Him in prayer.

Watchman Nee uses the parable of the widow, who repeatedly bothers the judge because of the oppression of her enemy, to show the importance of praying against Satan. This is a type of prayer that Jesus prophesied would be rare when He returns.

I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
(Luk 18:8 ESV)

Watchman Nee continues throughout the book showing the importance of prayer, offering examples of effectual prayers, explaining types of prayers, and revealing the schemes that Satan uses to harm us.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much when I started reading this little book. I have quite a few books on prayer and there comes a point when you have to ask: “Is there anything else that someone can say about prayer?” Watchman Nee has showed me my many failures in prayer. I understood that prayer is always to be according to God’s will, but I didn’t realize He waits for our prayers before He acts.

How unfaithful to my Lord have I been in this matter! I have not been praying for His return. I have not been praying for Satan to be bound and cast into the pit. I have not begged our Father to rebuke the evil one with all of His wrath for causing all kinds of pains and sufferings on His Children. Christ has revealed to me that He wishes for us to join in His work and is willing to delay the fulfillment of His will, because we don’t yet care enough to pray about His desires. How the army of heaven has suffered, because we have been unwilling to aid them in their battle against the enemy of Christ.

If Christ is always interceding for us, how can we justify not joining with Him in fulfilling the eternal purpose of God?

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