Review: Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership by Phil Newton and Matt Schmucker.
What did polity in the early church look like? Aren’t “elders” just for Presbyterians? What does the Bible say? How do I actually go about leading my church through a transition to an elder led model? All of these questions and more are addressed in Newton and Schmucker’s newly revised work. In recent years there has been a resurgence among evangelicals who are considering the biblical argument for a plurality of elders/pastors/overseers in the local church. Newton and Schmucker begin by dealing with the historical ramifications of the position. They go back in Baptist history and demonstrate that early Baptist churches actually had a plurality of elders as part of their polity. Schmucker also shares his personal experience as Capital Hills Baptist Church made their transition from a single pastor to a plurality of elders. These chapters share some valuable insights from the experience of this local church.
The authors move on to address some of the key biblical texts dealing with eldership. Addressing Acts 20:17-31, I Timothy 3:1-7, Hebrews 13:17-19, and I Peter 5:1-5, Newton and Schmucker press for a biblical pattern of polity that includes a plurality of elders in each church. Their work in these chapters dealing with these specific texts is possibly the most valuable portion of the book. Throughout, the story of Capital Hills continues to be told, both the good and the bad. This is valuable as well, as the reader is not given a “just do everything this way and it will turn out great.” The authors are very clear about some of the struggles they faced in implementing what they believed to be biblical.
The final section of the book covers ideas for a church looking to transition into an elder led model. This section is valuable, but also carries the material that I would consider to be weaker than the rest of the work. The authors delve into the area of establishing this model overseas in missionary church plants. However, since neither of them are missiologists or former overseas church planters, the section leans heavily on outside sources. Maybe having a veteran overseas church planter write the final chapter or two would have strengthened the section.
That being said, this is a great resource, and a well written book that I can easily give five out of five stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
As a historical fiction lover, I loved the connection between the history and the contemporary in this quick moving novel. I was initially struck by the beautiful cover of the book, and was rewarded with an equally beautiful story. You will not be disappointed either.
Sera James is an art dealer intent on finding a painting she glimpsed as a child while with her father on a trip to Paris. She is intrigued by the woman depicted in this portrait from the 1940′s and eagerly hunts down the story. It doesn’t take long for her path to intersect with the handsome and wealthy William Hanover, who not only wants to find the painting but very much needs to find this painting.
Interwoven in their story is the beautiful depiction of the life of Adel Von Bron, a violinist from Austria during the years of the second World War and amidst the cruelty enacted against the Jews even of Adele’s hometown. However, she is largely shielded from the suffering that goes on until she is directly confronted with it. And her choice will change everything for her.
This delicate story of love is amazingly the first novel for this author, and I almost wonder if she left it open for a sequel. I hope to see much more from Kristy Cambron.
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson as part of the Booklook blogging review program in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book Review: The Good News About Marriage: Debunking discouraging myths about marriage and divorce by Shaunti Feldhahn with Tally Whitehead
Good news about marriage statistics? Yeah, I was pretty skeptical. The only marriage statistics I have ever heard were very negative but this book is prepared to destroy the inaccurate statistics that have been passed on as facts for years.
A quick read, the book contains a lot of statistics and results from studies and surveys (think college sociology class). This is not my area of expertise so I just had to take their word, and they made a great case. Admittedly it is hard to believe that things you have heard so often could actually by myths.
The point of the book was that we ought to be encouraged that the average marriage is happy and not in serious trouble as some would have you believe. This has ramifications for ministry leaders as they seek to help those in their churches and communities. But is simply being happy and avoiding divorce the only measuring stick or even the only goal for couples? So just keep in mind that this is an informational book and not a book to help your marriage per se.
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Multnomah press in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book Review– Defending the Line: The David Luiz Story by Alex Carpenter
With World Cup in Brazil just around the corner, how timely this book will be for many 6th through 8th graders (as specified on the back of the book) looking for some fun summer reading. The book follows the life and faith of David Luiz focusing mainly on the years of his professional soccer career. And considering the grade level it is targeting, it is a short read at less than 100 pages.
In the country of Brazil, soccer is taken very seriously and their players start young. From the age of 12, David Luiz was playing in a club and had high hopes to one day be a professional soccer play. Through hard work and determination, David realized that dream even as now he represents his home country on the field in the greatest stage soccer offers.
The author points out that David is quick to give all the glory to God whether in his interviews with reporters, by praying for team members, or even his t-shirts that say things like “God is faithful.”
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the Booklook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A Review of Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert W. Bateman IV
The general epistles can be tough. I’m a senior pastor, and I’ve recently worked through James, and have plans on working through the rest over the next few years. Hebrews can give pastors headaches, and sometimes the little books like Jude and 2 and 3 John can be challenging. Good commentaries abound on these epistles, but Bateman’s newest Exegetical Handbook fills a gap in the scholarship.
Bateman deals with the genre of the letters (comparing them with traditional Greek letters), then gives extensive background material. But it is probably what follows these initial sections that is worth the cost of the book. Bateman covers key issues in interpretation, communicating, and expositing the general letters. Too many commentaries are either technical and give more details than the pastors actually needs, or they are devotional and way too watered down. They also often cover only a singular book of the Bible at a time. What this work does is give some technical details while also giving tips and helps in how to accurately and effectively preach and teach these eight letters.
Another strong aspect of the book is the very handy resource at the end which lists various commentaries and exegetical helps for dealing with these epistles. Since the book is brand new, Bateman’s list has the distinct advantage of being completely up to date with modern scholarship and the newest commentaries on the market. This is a great resource for pastors who want to know more of the background and theology contained in the general epistles.
I give Interpreting The General Letters five out of five stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A Review of Spirit Bridge by James L. Rubart
Spirit Bridge is the concluding novel in the Well Spring series, written by James L. Rubart. Well within the “spiritual warfare” genre of novels that have been popular for a few decades with Christians. Rubart has a few twists though, that make for good writing, but leave doctrinal questions.
One of the challenges with writing this genre is how to handle “the crossover.” In other words, how do humans interact with the spiritual realm, including angels and demons? Different authors have tackled this in different ways. Rubart uses an idea I’ve not seen before. Humans enter the “spiritual realm” while leaving their bodies behind. In this realm they engage with angels and demons in a very physical way. However, there are also parts of the novel in which demons engage with humans in a physical manner in the physical realm. This creates some confusion. Another concern was the complete lack of “conversion.” There seems to be perpetual questions at times as to whether someone is an ally or an enemy. II Corinthians 5:17 doesn’t seem to have much effect on Rubart’s writing. He seems more concerned with writing a good story that operates in the spiritual realm.
And he has written a very good book. As far as fictional works go, Rubart intertwines his characters well. He develops several different characters throughout the book, and moves the story along very well. If this were a fantasy novel dealing with an imaginary realm, I would give it great marks. But because it is placed in the real world, and deals with real spiritual issues, I knock it down a little because of some of the doctrinal questions.
I give Spirit Bridge 4 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from the Booklook review program in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A Review of Persecuted, by Robin Parrish
John Luther is the most popular evangelist in the United States, and a majorly influential figure. So influential that his support is considered vital for legislation that is being proposed that would seriously limit religious liberty. Luther wants nothing to do with politics, but his hand is forced, and he refuses to endorse the bill. This launches a wild ride of political intrigue, murder, betrayal, and a desperate pursuit of the truth. Parrish gives the reader a story that carries real world possibilities. It should serve as a reminder of how tenuous our hold on religious freedom really is.
John Luther is a believable character. He is the son of an episcopal priest who rebels against the faith of his father, only to be found by Christ at the lowest point of his life. He has been through the wringer of sin- drugs, alcohol, abuse, divorce, jail. But he is a dirty vessel made clean through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. This is a powerful picture of the biblical teaching that no one is outside the reach of a glorious Savior.
There are a few weaknesses that take away from the message. Luther is pictured in the beginning as in a dressing room, then getting all pumped up to proclaim the truth. This is a picture of preaching that most pastors would be uncomfortable with- it makes it sound way too much like a performance. There are also some instances of blood and some inappropriate physical contact that are handled delicately but still would probably not be appropriate for younger readers. It’s a good read, and the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.
I give Persecuted 4 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book Review: Life Support by Candace Calvert
I am new to the Grace Medical series, but I am certain that many have already enjoyed some of this author’s other works. The book highlights Lauren, an ER nurse at Grace Medical in busy city of Houston, which happens to be the prime target of the next hurricane. Elijah Landry is the mysterious yet handsome physician assistant who has a complicated past.
Undeniably, the author has a writing style that I enjoyed, but I had several problems with the book. As a whole, I thought the plot was predictable, and without giving it away, the end was abrupt (in that everything was quickly brought around to a “happily ever after”). Also, the author centered the story around a mental illness, but I felt that she dealt with a very complex issue at only the surface level.
I would be unfair if I didn’t point out that I am a registered nurse, and the daily happenings in the hospital do not interest me. I see it for a living, so I tend to want to get away from it when I sit down to enjoy a book. But that’s just me. If you enjoy the ER type medical drama, romance, and like good clean fiction, then this book may be perfect for you.
3 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A Review of Carl G. Rasmussen’s Essential Atlas of the Bible
Zondervan has made a solid new addition to the world of Bible reference works with their new Bible Atlas. The book makes some bold claims on the front cover (using terms like “stunning,” “Most up-to-date,” etc).While the atlas contains a lot of different types of information considering the size (159 pages), one wonders if they did a lot of things well, but nothing spectacularly. The maps are good, but I fail to see how they are superior to others in modern Bible atlases. Also, for someone who is mildly color blind (as I am), the color schemes of some of the maps are almost impossible to determine. I struggled to follow some of the roads and other smaller details- some of the maps could probably have been larger with less detail in written form.
The historical section was very helpful- the Atlas gives a basic history beginning with creation and running through the book of Acts. This helps with chronology and tying things together. Some of the maps do really “pop” out at the reader and give great background and mental pictures to the locations of some of the biblical events. The book contains a good number of pictures from the area as well, and these can be helpful in getting a mental grasp on some of the locations. Bible reference works can be hard to grade objectively. I think that this new work will be a very helpful addition for both pastors and members of the congregation who want to be able to visualize the geography of the Bible.
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from the Booklook Program in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book Review: Candle Bible Handbook by Terry Jean Day & Carol J. Smith; Edited and revised by Dr. Tim Dowley
With over 230 pages loaded with interesting color illustrations, maps, and photos, this Bible handbook would be a great resource for your middle school aged child. Each book of the Bible is briefly discussed with such headings as “Frequently Asked Questions” and “Look out for. . .” sections which offer pertinent information.
I believe this would be a nice resource for parents trying to answer their children’s many questions about the Bible and the format will help you answer those questions in a way they can understand. Most likely you will find very little controversial material in this book, but just like study notes in your Bible, you may not agree completely with everything.
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.