03 October 2011

Review: Jesus v. Jerusalem

Jesus v. Jerusalem
Jesus v. Jerusalem by Joel McDurmon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, it not only really covered the parables texts in general, but it gave additional cultural/historical insights that most all modern Bible readers would not know, and therefore miss the target topic of in the verse. Time and time again, he gave more information than I expected to get, and in almost all cases, gave me a slightly different angle of view on these parables.

The key point about this book, is that is properly defines Jesus' vision and ministry. he came and dealt with the "lost sheep" of Israel. He spoke 99.9% of his message strictly and directly to the people of God from the first testament, the people of Israel, both in Jerusalem and scattered abroad (the other ten tribes). His message was for and to them, and little to nothing is directed at the nations (Gentiles). This greatly affects the meanings of his sayings, and would greatly alter the uses by those modern-day "red letter" Christians. Jesus is not like some other Confucius who just came on the scene throwing out phrases of general wisdom. No, he came with a purpose and a people in mind, and he hit those people between the eyes with everything he said.

12 August 2011

By What Atonement? - God's Failed Plan?

Ideas have consequences, and I wonder sometimes if people were to follow some of their ideas through to their logical conclusion, if they would/could still hold to them.

For the last 2000+ years, the Christian church has preached that the gospel - the good news - is that Christ died in our place, paying the ransom, fulfilling the law, and making atonement for our sin. We were once alienated from God, in darkness, but have now been converted, and born again, through the work of Christ on the cross. He died so that we would have life. The death of Christ on the cross is pretty much the central point of the Christian faith, and without it, we would all still be stuck in our sins and death.

Yet, to read that many in the modern dispensationalist camp teach that the crucifixion of Christ was in fact not the plan, and that had the Jews not rejected and crucified him, that he would have in fact set up the promised earthly kingdom.

09 August 2011

Review: Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Jeffrey Burton Russell)

Satan: The Early Christian Tradition
Satan: The Early Christian Tradition by Jeffrey Burton Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Russell's first volume, The Devil Personifications of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, he dealt with an era of time that was much more diverse, covering ancient history of all kinds of religious views. This time around, he sticks with Christian history, and focuses on only the first few hundred years of church history. A much easier read than the first volume, and covering an era already somewhat familiar to me, this volume was easier to digest overall.

04 August 2011

Review: Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor by J. Hudson Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The power of prayer cannot be diminished by distance; it is not limited by age, infirmity, or daily duty; political changes and restrictions cannot alter its effectiveness; for the word still stands, "If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it." The power of prayer in the life of an obedient Christian can only be undermined by neglect."

Thus is the ending of an amazing little autobiography of Hudson Taylor. So many times while reading this book, I could only sit and shake my head, wondering why I do not have the faith that this man had. I have seen other reviewers states that this is a must read book for any Christian, and I agree. This is one of those book that all new converts should be handed as part of their conversion material.

25 July 2011

Review: The Lost World of Genesis One (John H. Walton)

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins DebateThe Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a bit challenging, and I knew that going in. This book strikes at a very traditional view that I have been a proponent of for many, many years. But I wanted to at least consider the position, and having finished Walton's other book Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible I figured I would follow up with this title. I will say that having read his other book prior to this one was a huge help and made it that much easier to understand his position from the get-go.

18 July 2011

Review: Oracles of Fire - Eye Of The Oracle by Bryan Davis

Eye Of The Oracle (Oracles Of Fire, #1)Eye Of The Oracle by Bryan Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, first off let me say, I am not a big reader of fiction. My mind seems more geared to engaging and loving deep theological works that challenge my thinking and my positions. Sure, I have read and loved things like Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series in the past, but it is just that fiction is something I rarely spend time with.

My wife read the first two related series of books by Davis, and suggested I give my mind a rest with some lighter reading occasionally, so I did. It was a struggle at first, I just couldn't get excited about fiction, so I found myself squeezing in other works in between starting this, and this became a secondary occasional read. But after finishing one of the in-between reading, I decided to focus my concentration only on this and "get through it."

15 July 2011

Peru Mission Trip

I got back from Lima, Peru, at 8:00 this past Monday morning, after being up most of the night. I wanted to write down all of the things that I saw and did while it was still fresh in my mind. I also wanted to let all of my friends know how the trip went, and give all of our supporters a big Thank You, this trip was awesome.

When we arrived in Lima, it was about 9:30 pm, and dark. We left the airport and got on a bus to get to the Hotel Yeyas. I will have to say that the drive from the airport to the hotel was a little shocking. I had driven through some poverty stricken areas, but nothing has ever come close to this. Think of the worst city streets you have ever been on, and then multiply that by 10. The brick buildings had no roofs, or doors for that matter, and were falling down around themselves. Garbage piled up on the side of the street with people congregating in areas, with all of the street dogs protecting their share of the garbage piles. As we moved away from the airport, things got a little nicer, but it was hard to see in the dark. Already we begin to realize what we have and feel thankful for it, the United States are really blessed.

10 July 2011

Review: Who Is This Babylon? (Don K. Preston)

Who Is This Babylon?Who Is This Babylon? by Don K. Preston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few of Preston's books and this one ranks up there as one of his best. Focused mainly on the topic of identifying who is being spoken of in the book of Revelation when it speaks of the judgment on Babylon, this book is pretty exhaustive in looking at all of the angles. People along the way have said it is Rome, or the Roman Catholic church, or any number of other agencies through history, but Preston's tear down each of these examples and shows how the Scripture from start to finish leaves us with only one possible answer to the question. Who is this Babylon? None other than Jerusalem herself.

Preston does not directly present the other views in order to disassemble them, he strictly shows how only Jerusalem can properly qualify as the identity of Babylon, and how others do not therefore qualify based on biblical and historical texts.

25 May 2011

Review: Testimony: The Inspirational and Spiritual Journey of a Prog Rock Musician (Neal Morse)

Testimony: The Inspirational and Spiritual Journey of a Prog Rock MusicianTestimony: The Inspirational and Spiritual Journey of a Prog Rock Musician by Neal Morse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really blessed by this book. Neal Morse is the vocalist/songwriter/musician behind such great prog bands as Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and his own solo work, and I have been a huge fan of his music for more than ten years now. After his first solo album, I even tracked him down via email and offered my services to be his drummer on the road (since the album was mainly studio musicians). It did not come to anything, but the desire was there...and still is. So maybe that helped me to devour this book in just three days, but even if you are not a fan of his music, this book still has a lot to offer.

You see a man, growing from a boy with a desire for music, struggling through his teen years in the California music scene, getting involved in all the typical raunchy lifestyle you can imagine, just running his life into the ground more and more; then he shows how in hindsight God was prodding him little by little in areas, until his final conversion in his late 30s. The journey is rough, the sin is bad, the road is very rocky, but the end is a blessing.

Just prior to reading this, I had finished reading the biography on Dream Theater and Sammy Hagar, but of course this music related biography had a different journey and ending, and reveals so many amazing little workings of God in this man's life that brought him to the amazing music journey he now gives us.

View all my reviews

23 April 2011

Review: Unwrapping the Pharaohs: How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline

Unwrapping the Pharaohs: How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical TimelineUnwrapping the Pharaohs: How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline by John F. Ashton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very cool and interesting book going into great detail for newcomer to the study of Egypt. Dates, images, artifacts and more are given in beautiful display on this large coffee table style book. Showing the fallacies in typical "orthodox" dating of Egyptian chronology, and how when a reduced history is adopted as many modern scholars have suggested, it makes the Bible's chronology connect and align with the Egyptian timeline, providing cool insights into biblical texts. I really enjoyed this book, and now would love to go visit this land and see these sites up close and personal.

18 April 2011

Review: The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Jeffrey Burton Russell)

The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive ChristianityThe Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity by Jeffrey Burton Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WOW! What a book, and what a history lesson. The first half of the book covers so much mythology, ancient Eastern views of evil, and enough odd names and stories to make your head spin. Yet all along you start to see some similarities shared and transferred from culture to culture, until you finally hit the second half of the book, which deals with evil in the Hebrew and biblical context.

This was (to me) the most fascinating section, as it is an area I knew a little more about already. The author uses many ancient apocryphal and extra-biblical writings to show the developing mindset that seems to have eventually led to the more modern view of evil and the Devil that is believed today.

08 March 2011

Review: Devils and Demons and the Return of the Nephilim (John Klein)

Devils and Demons and the Return of the NephilimDevils and Demons and the Return of the Nephilim by John Klein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this a couple years ago mainly due to the title. I was hoping to find some insight into the Hebrew view of Nephilim, as I was studying the issue at the time (still am actually). I THOUGHT I had read it, or at least part of it back then, but in renewing my studies recently, I pulled it out and started at page one, and realized I did not recall reading much of any of this.

My understanding is that the authors have a strong Hebrew/Jewish background, and I expected to find quite a bit of background information, and that is indeed pretty much what this book offers. Unfortunately, the title of the book is mainly the focus of only a small section of the book...like a chapter or so. Good insights in that chapter, backing up much of what I have studied elsewhere. I guess the limited coverage of the topic may be one of the reasons the book was reprinted a couple years later under a new title, Lost In Translation Vol 1: Rediscovering the Roots of Our Faith which is much more suitable.

I found a bit of the explanation of the steps of the covenant relationship to be a little at odds with my Reformed background, but intriguing still. The symbolism between the old symbols and the new fulfillments was insightful. But one of the most interesting things was the examination of the original language, and the multiple meanings contained in the words. Not only are the words meaningful, but the individual letters were symbolic and and contained additional meaning. The words have multiple depths of meaning that simply cannot be captured and translated into individual English words, so we really miss so much by not better understanding these aspects.

The only let-down was some of their eschatology views, which were NOT very Hebrew in interpretation or understanding at times. But I guess that is not so much the authors specialty. Though it makes me wonder if the second edition to this book, Lost in Translation Vol 2: The Book of Revelation Through Hebrew Eyes will be any better on the topic. I will probably pick it up anyway, since it deals with more details about interpretation and symbolism and might offer insights not commonly understood to the Greek mind.

View all my reviews

27 February 2011

Misusing the Bible? Furious over FUR?

Yesterday I was driving through town, and I passed a local fur store, and out front were four or five people people with signs picketing against the store. One sign caught my eyes, which said something along the line of "God gave us the animals: Abuse the animals equals abuse of God."

I was so tempted to roll down my window and scream "GOD GAVE FUR TO ADAM AND EVE!"...but alas, I refrained. 8^)

not trying to get into the fur/anti-fur argument, just thought it was kind of funny.

Genesis 3:21 - And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

25 February 2011

Review: Nero (Jacob Abbott)

Nero (Makers of History)Nero by Jacob Abbott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And here I thought Nero was one of the good guys....yeah right. This book takes you inside the life and times of one of the most notoriously monstrous (dare I say beastly) emperors of history. The book was very enlightening for me in a history I only had a small amount of real historical knowledge of to begin with. We all hear some of the horror stories about Nero, but this provided a better look in the situations around him at the time.

I think what may have brought this book to even more of a reality for me, was during the past few weeks of reading this, I went and watched some shows dealing with these times in history. I forged my way through Caligula, a movie I had not seen since about 1985, and then I watched some episode of the newer series on cable called Spartacus (I warn you, this is a very graphic, very vulgar show, but I assume fairly realistic to the time frame at and). Combining these visual presentations with the insights of the story, I could almost feel myself being within the world of the book at time.

Overall, a great story. Easy to read and understand (if you could keep the various character's names sorted out), and a wild ride through the life of the beast as he was called.

View all my reviews

31 January 2011

Review: Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (John H. Walton)

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew BibleAncient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible by John H. Walton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much of the Old Testament seems strange to contemporary readers. However, as we begin to understand how ancient people viewed the world, the Old Testament becomes more clearly a book that stands within its ancient context as it also speaks against it. John Walton provides here a thoughtful introduction to the conceptual world of the ancient Near East. Walton surveys the literature of the ancient Near East and introduces the reader to a variety of beliefs about God, religion, and the world. In helpful sidebars, he provides examples of how such studies can bring insight to the interpretation of specific Old Testament passages. Students and pastors who want to deepen their understanding of the Old Testament will find this a helpful and instructive study.
I bought this book thinking it was dealing with one thing, only to find when I started reading, that it was not. It is a comparative type study of the Old Testament and the surrounding near Eastern teachings. Many "scholars" today say the OT has borrowed its "stories" from other pagan nations, and that there is nothing really new or unique about the religion contained within. This book seeks - and accomplishes - proving this to be incorrect.

There was much in this book that kind of went over my head, and was more technical than I could fully grasp (either that or I wasn't fully able to concentrate while reading), but for the most part the book is filled with details of surrounding nations that really shed some new light on our understanding of the OT text. Some of the most striking revelations to me were looking at the first four of the ten commandments.

After understanding how the other nations looked at deity, worshiped their deity, and made images of them - and what those images were there for - it really altered my understanding of why God said what he said in the commandments. My understanding of the intent and purpose of those commands has changed, not drastically or in direct opposition of what I believed on the topic, but I understand better what they were specifically worded to address, and how some of my application of them was not necessarily accurate.

Another very interesting section was in dealing with the temples of a deity. Everything from how they were created, what they suggested, how they were described, and what took place there, it really gave some major depth to a lot of things; things that I really need to study further after re-reading part of this book again.

Other than that highlight, just understanding some of the complex things the other nations believed, and yes, even seeing how some of that was common in the OT belief system, just gave depth and detail to my understanding of the ancient OT world. I think books like this should be required reading for all pastors; in order to bring the OT to life in sermons, they need to understand the culture and issues that surrounded the writings of it. Likewise for the NT text, the culture, context, and local issues - audience relevance - is the key to understanding the text.

So, I gleaned quite a bit from this book, but would love to take the time for a more detailed reading to grasp more. I recommend this book as a great source of study for a better grasp of OT thought and practice.

View all my reviews