Book Review – Irenaeus of Lyon (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)

There are very few authors for whom I get excited to see a new book release hit the shelves. One such author is Simonetta Carr. Anyone not familiar with her books is truly missing out on what I humbly submit are valuable reading treasures. Her most recent book which is part of the continuing Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series, title Irenaeus of Lyon, is no exception.

What continues to stand out most for me with this overall series to include this most title are the beautiful illustrations and pictures contained throughout the book. Let’s face it. History related books can be somewhat boring. Given the target audience for this series, namely young readers, including wonderfully drawn and informative illustrations and pictures which provide the reader a visual grasp of the information is noteworthy.

Furthermore, providing a helpful overview of such an important church figure as Irenaeus is an excellent addition to this series of books. I would venture to say a majority of adult believers either have never heard of Irenaeus or they only have a passing understanding of his impact. This lack of knowledge is quite unfortunate. Thus, providing young readers with a solid understanding of the life, times, and influence of Irenaeus on church history is vitally important.

Carr’s book hits a homerun by enabling young readers to consume a well-rounded overview of Irenaeus without bogging them down to the point where these young minds will become bored and disinterested with the material. Carr once again writes with her audience well in mind and does so rather amazingly.

I highly recommend this book, especially for families who homeschool or for homeschool associations who may offer group classes for their members. This book would make an excellent addition to a homeschool bible and/or world history curriculum.

So Simonetta Carr…with this latest release you have me on the edge of my seat anxiously waiting for what you have next for us in this awesome series.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews and 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.”

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Book Review – Forensic Faith

Believers are commanded in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be ready to “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Being able to provide such a defense requires the believer to have a functional understanding of the faith in which they have placed their hope. Part of this effort involves the practice of apologetics. Moreover, developing a good apologetic for the faith includes utilizing the vast amount of evidence available in support of the faith. Having valuable tools on hand which outline in a helpful manner this fount of evidence is also essential.

It can be argued that approaching the evidence for the validity of the faith from the perspective of an investigator is a tremendous method for not only exploring the truth, but also for ensuring all the relevant facts are explored thoroughly with little doubt left in the end as to what is true. It is this methodology which is employed by J. Warner Wallace in his latest book aptly titled Forensic Faith.

For those not familiar with Wallace’s previous works or his journey to faith in Jesus, he was a former atheist who spent a career as a cold-case homicide detective. This career developed in him a keen understanding of how to identify, review, and parse evidence, in particular in homicide cases where the evidential trail had become thin. This investigative background was part of his investigation of Christianity and which led to his embracing of the merits of the faith.

In this particular book, Wallace focuses on providing believers the needed skills to make a reasonable, thorough case based on the available evidence for Christianity. This is a tutorial of sorts, an investigative handbook replete with valuable information that will empower the believer to make a powerful defense and an air-tight case for the hope within them that would stand up to even the most potent cross-examination.
Where this book shines brightest is in its practicality. Scattered strategically throughout the book are vignettes called “Forensic Faith Profiles”, “Forensic Faith Assignments”, “Forensic Faith Challenge”, and “Forensic Faith Definition”. These provide the reader with nuggets of information to chew on if you will, informative tidbits that serve as beneficial road maps on the journey to understanding and employing one’s defense of the faith.

In this vein of practicality, also of note are the “Forensic Faith Practice” portions. Given this book is intended to serve as a training manual of sorts, including the opportunity for the reader to put into practice what they are learning is invaluable. It is after all one thing to simply read information and quite another to put what you have read into practice in a meaningful way. Wallace helps drive home the bounty of information he provides by giving the reader these practice sessions.

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace is a book I highly recommend. In an age where we need more than ever to understand what we believe and more importantly, to be able to coherently and cogently declare the glorious message of the gospel, this book will serve as an excellent field manual for defending the faith.

I received this book for free from David C. Cook via Litfuse Publicity and 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.”

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Book Review – This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years

For quite some time I have anxiously awaited a book to be released in the Christian publishing genre geared towards teenagers and the plethora of issues they deal with on a daily basis. There are certainly many books on the market regarding issues such as dating for example, but few if any that explore in a manner accessible to teenagers how the message of the gospel and its application to their lives is nothing short of transformative. Such a book has arrived on the scene, that of Jaquelle Crowe’s This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years. This is a book written by a teen (well okay a 19 year old) for teens.

I have a teenage daughter. As a teenager myself in the distant past, I can relate to the struggles she faces. While technological advances have increased over the years, teenagers face the same array of problems I faced at that age – peer pressure, understanding the need for your relationship with God to not just be your parent’s religion, the complicated struggle between a desire to be a child and enjoy the teenage years and the urge to want to be an adult, just to name a few. What is often forgotten is Scripture speaks to all these issues. Furthermore, the truth of the gospel can and must transform how teens approach those matters.

Jaquelle saliently engages vital topics such as forming a biblical identity, grasping how our story fits into the larger gospel story, matters of community, dealing with sin, spiritual disciples, spiritual growth, time management, and building godly relationships. At the conclusion of each chapter, she provides three discussion questions that will help the reader apply the information learned.

This is a book we are currently using as part of our homeschool curriculum, both as part of Bible class and as part of our daughter’s reading assignment. We have allowed her to select one of the discussion questions and to write a response to that question, being sure to personalize the answer rather than merely regurgitating the facts presented by the author. I can relay that some valuable discussions have taken place as a result of our child journeying through this book.

Teenagers do not spend a good deal of effort pondering their worldview. While they certainly form one, often as a result of peer pressure or perhaps by embracing their parent’s perspective on life on a surface level, truly grasping a biblical worldview is often lost among so many other attention grabbers in their lives. For that matter, spending time assessing spiritual disciples or time management at this age is also something that more often than not does not take place, let alone how the gospel speaks to all these life issues.

This is why a book such as This Changes Everything is so helpful. A book written from the perspective of a teenager for teenagers, is a massive help for parents. So many times parents get the rolling of the eyes when they try and share about the matters addressed by Jaquelle Crowe in her book. Hearing what parents are hopefully trying so hard to get across from the point of view of an age peer, is of great value and will go a long way to supporting, promoting, and strengthening the efforts of parents.

Furthermore, I see great value in this book being used in youth groups, specifically in a small group setting where the questions can be asked and explored in more detail than perhaps could take place in a larger group setting. Given the immense importance of the subject matter and again the fact this book is written by an age peer, I highly encourage youth leaders to consider using this as a teaching tool.

It has been a long time coming in my opinion for a book that will be of tremendous help to teenagers, parents, and youth leaders. Jaquelle Crowe has done a marvelous job of engaging teenagers in a way they can understand and of bringing to bear gospel truth to issues our young people are facing and which they need to ponder at this formative stage of their life. I recommend picking up a copy and I highly recommend checking out the videos Crossway has been sharing on their website of late in support of this book.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books and 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.”

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Michael Boling – Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

When the term apocalyptic literature is used, most are likely drawn to thinking about books in Scripture such as Revelation or perhaps the ending chapters of Matthew where Jesus described the time of the end. While both are indeed apocalyptic, what is often forgotten is the plethora and rich literature of this genre found in the Old Testament. Dr. Richard Taylor in his book Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook takes a helpful look through Daniel, the OT Prophets, and extra-biblical texts, exploring the overall genre and providing the reader how to read, understand, and most importantly, apply these important texts.

Taylor saliently notes how the very term apocalyptic is somewhat difficult to define. Is it an actual genre or merely a term that can be used to described sections of Scripture that speak on issues of judgment and eternal matters? To help push through the fog of confusion regarding the term itself, Taylor works through the various terms associated with this type of literature such as apocalypse, apocalypticism, apocalyptic literature, apocalyptic eschatology, apocalyptic discourse, and proto-apocalyptic. I found Taylor’s efforts to define and set the stage for further discussion well-written and helpful for without this important foundation, actual engagement of the relevant texts would be difficult at best.

After providing the aforementioned foundation, Taylor then begins exploring the major themes found in apocalyptic literature, specifically those located in the book of Daniel, the OT Prophets, and Extra-Biblical Jewish Apocalyptic texts. The latter source of material may seem out of place; however, studying the extra-bibical writings of the period should not be ignored and thankfully Taylor has taken the time to look through, albeit rather briefly, texts such as the book of Enoch and Jubilees. While not part of the canon, those books nevertheless are important reads as after all, canonical books such as Jude make reference to them in relation to matters of apocalyptic importance.

Before one can actually engage these texts, it is necessary to be fully prepared for what you will find and the type of language used such as similes, metaphors, metonomy, hypocatastasis, and synecdoche. While some of these are certainly what can be labeled as million dollar theological terms, Taylor does an excellent job of explaining and providing examples of how they work in context. Without a proper grasp of how and why such types of language are used in apocalyptic literature, one can fall prey to the dangerous ground of faulty interpretations and wild speculations that unfortunately so often surround efforts geared at understanding this genre.

To help the reader, Taylor provides a great list of resources on matters such as understanding biblical languages, bible study software, lexical and grammatical guides, and primary source material. To be honest, many of these resources should not be found solely in the libraries of those in seminary. Even the average laymen should take note and use these tools, especially when studying apocalyptic literature.

Finally, after properly preparing the reader with outstanding foundational information, he engages how to interpret this genre and importantly, how to proclaim the gospel message found within its pages. It is one thing to study and absorb what God has revealed in the apocalyptic genre. It is quite another thing to take that message, properly understand it, and then proclaim its message to a world that will be impacted by the events its describes. Taylor does an excellent job of showing ways to weave the message of this genre into our gospel proclamation.

Confused and frustrated by the apocalyptic genre? Are the books of Daniel and Revelation something that frighten you? Are you more apt to let someone else tell you what to think about this genre rather than investigating it for yourself? If any of those or other issues have kept you from studying this topic, I highly encourage you to read Dr. Taylor’s book. It is scholarly yet accessible and it will go a long way to helping the mystery of the apocalyptic genre become more understandable.

This book is available for purchase from Kregel Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Kregel Academic and 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.”

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Michael Boling – Book Review: Old Testament Sermons

Last summer I had the opportunity to pick up a few sets of great books. Included in that purchase was a title by someone whose works for which I was only minimally familiar, namely Robert Murray M’Cheyne. If you are not familiar with this individual, M’Cheyne ministered in the early to mid-portion of the 1800’s as the pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Dundee Scotland. Interestingly, at the beginning of the last century, a man named James Macdonald purchased a box of what was later discovered to be the notebooks and sermons of M’Cheyne. Banner of Truth has thankfully published these sermons and M’Cheyne’s Old Testment Sermons was included in the books I purchased last year.

The style of M’Cheyne’s approach to preaching is what you would expect of a preacher from his era. He presents a Scripture, provides the doctrine found in that passage, and then outlines for the reader (or hearer back in his day), sound biblical application.

What I found most interesting in the various sermons provided by Banner of Truth in this collection is the invaluable truths M’Cheyne is able to extract from a passage. There were many sermons where a doctrine was presented that honestly I had never thought about as it relates the passage in question. M’Cheyne was able to extract nuggets of truth many have likely overlooked or for which certain important connections with larger biblical principles were simply overlooked. I found myself over and over again saying “Wow….never thought about that passage in that manner.”

Each sermon, while short, provides a well of theological depth we unfortunately do not experience these days with many modern sermons. Perhaps this is why I appreciate so much the godly preachers of this era. They had the God given ability to provide their flock with profound yet practical sermons that drive home much needed guidance on issues such as holiness, sin, faith, prayer, and redemption, just to name a few.

While M’Cheyne may not be as household a name as John Owen for example, he is nonetheless well worth checking out. The collection of sermons contained in Old Testament Sermons is a valuable treasure trove. I am quite pleased it is a resource that has found its way into my personal library. I encourage you to do the same.

This book is available for purchase from Banner of Truth by clicking here.

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