Thursday
Feb202014

God’s Story, Your Story

Book Review by 
George A. Peters Sr.

With use of modern Bible translations, his family’s personal Christian practices and his church pastoring events, Max Lucado shows how God’s story in Jesus became and continues to become alive when people truly turn to Him.

The chapter “You Know Satan’s Next Move” is a great eye-opener for the tricks that devils and demons use to divert and destroy Christian testimony and deeds. Another chapter describes how God’s voice became real for people in the Bible and becomes just as real for people in our day and time.

Lucado describes the miraculous power of Jesus’ death and atonement on the cross, using illustrations from biblical times, as well as modern times – all equally touching.

The resurrection power of Christ, both in His first confrontations with people, and in present-day times, could not be more effectively described.

Our human weaknesses and tendencies to drift to self-sufficiencies – rather than to fully depend on God’s supernatural power – are honestly and revealingly described.

The chapter “Power Moves In” begins with the unforgettable transformation of Peter “from wimp to warrior in 50 days.” The author compares the birth of electric power for the masses and the lack of understanding people had to grasp the new “electric” asset they had with the role and power of the Holy Spirit in peoples’ lives. A couple of very honest, yet difficult, personal experiences of the author are given to show how we may need the Holy Spirit’s personal guidance in our most down-to-earth living.

The spread of God’s story in the Book of Acts is compared to the 90-pound golden retriever of Lucado and wife, Denalyn, and how the dog was trained to recognize their home’s open and shut door system by a combination of signals to entrances and exits.

Paul and Silas had to learn about the closing and opening of doors by God in His guidance and directions to share His story. So also we must learn the same principles.

Another chapter describes Paul’s early years – in vocational training, Scriptural teaching, acquisition of language skills and Roman citizenship – as a graphic illustration of the truths of the Bible verse Romans 8:28.

In closing chapters, Lucado writes about the Second Coming, the resurrection of believers and victories over disease and death. One moving story was about the Lucado daughter, Sara, and her grandmother – Max Lucado’s mother, Thelma – both graduating at the same time. At the moment Sara was receiving her high school diploma to the cheers of their family, her grandmother was graduating at the same moment – to glory in heaven! Seventy-six years separated the two family members, but they were graduating at the same moment.

After Lucado’s final chapter, another writer has a brief discussion and action guide for each chapter, should a person or group wish to follow it.

Thursday
Feb062014

Teach the Text Commentary Series

Book Review by 
Doug Hibbard

Commentaries. They are the heavy box in every pastoral library, the bent shelf in the church library and the power tool of the Bible student. Like any power tool, the commentary can be overused by those unwilling to do the hard work themselves or underused by those afraid of the power. Commentaries come in a variety of styles, with some being academic and technical but impractical and others being devotional and inspirational but shallow. 

Why, then, should you add the Teach the Text Commentary Series to your overladen shelves? Let us consider R.T. France’s volume on the Gospel of Luke as an example of the series. Other volumes, like Romans by Ouachita Baptist University’s C. Marvin Pate, are available and follow a similar format.

First, France’s Luke is written with the teacher in mind. Rather than subdividing the text into traditional chapters, France breaks the Gospel of Luke into teachable segments. This results in 65 sections examining the context and culture of the passage and providing insights on how to teach the material.

Second, France’s Luke assumes the reader has a Bible of their own. Rather than reprint the entire text of a passage, the space is used to examine the text. This recognizes the various translations in use and allows for the teacher or pastor who works from the original languages as well. 

Third, France’s Luke is full-color. I understand why previous generations of book publishing were monochromatic, but with the advent of computer-based printing, the use of color is a reasonable expense. There are shaded boxes to highlight key themes and sections. Then there are full-color photos of artwork, archaeology and architecture that illuminate the theme of the text.

Fourth, France’s Luke refers the reader to teaching illustrations for each segment of text. These may be taken from literature or music, from history or personal life, but they all suggest ways to help the teacher clarify the major message of the passage.

In all these, Luke and other volumes of the Teach the Text series do some of the teacher’s heavy-lifting, but not all of it. A good balance is struck between providing background information, linguistic comments, inspirational ideas and then leaving the reader to compile this material with other sources, all to support the most important thing: teaching the text of Scripture. This makes the Teach the Text series a recommended resource for pastors and teachers.

Doug Hibbard is pastor of First Baptist Church, Almyra.

Thursday
Jan092014

‘In Defense of the Bible’ – a comprehensive apologetic 

Book Review by 
Tim Yarbrough

A summary on the back cover of “In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture” accurately encapsulates this volume as “a comprehensive apologetic for the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, featuring essays that tackle all major contemporary challenges: philosophical, methodological, textual, historical, ethical, scientific and theological.”

Through 18 author essays, writers address important topics designed to guide biblical discussions to assist casual readers of the Bible – as well as seasoned theologians. Topics range from “What Does It Mean to Say that the Bible Is True?” and “Is the Story of Jesus Borrowed from Pagan Myths?” to “Does the Bible Conflict with Science?” and “Is the Bible the Word of God?”

Editors Steven B. Cowan, associate professor of philosophy and religion at Louisiana College in Pineville, La., and Terry L. Wilder, professor and chair of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, are straightforward in their desire to increase biblical knowledge and reinforce the traditional Christian view that the Bible “is divinely inspired and therefore infallible and absolutely true in what it asserts,” counteracting what “has been under relentless attack for several generations … transgressing even popular media.”

Cowan and Wilder even dedicate the compilation “to Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, contenders for the faith,” adding, “Untold numbers of Christians are forever in your debt.”

In an introduction, the editors state, “It almost goes without saying that if we live in a post-Christian culture, we also live in a post-Bible culture. Despite the fact that the Bible is still the world’s number one best-seller, biblical illiteracy abounds. Apparently, many people buy the Bible but not so many actually read it. Still fewer give it any serious study.” They later add, “We believe that it is incumbent upon Christians, for the sake of the church and for the sake of the world, to meet the Bible’s critics head-on and to respond to all the major challenges to the inspiration and authority of Scripture. This we intend to do in this book.”

Essay authors include Paul W. Barnett, a former Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, Australia; James M. Hamilton, a graduate of the University of Arkansas and associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Mary Jo Sharp, assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, in addition to Cowan and Wilder.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Wednesday
Dec112013

‘Telling God’s Story’ – a biblical narrative

Book Review by 
Matt Ramsey

Many of us have grown up hearing stories from the Bible – stories about God’s love and His redemption of mankind. But how well do we know the overall story of the Bible? Helping readers understand the Bible’s overarching story is the goal of the book “Telling God’s Story: the biblical narrative from beginning to end.” 

This book shows how many smaller stories come together and reveal one larger story about God’s purpose for His creation.

“Telling God’s Story” looks closely at the Bible from its beginning in Genesis to its conclusion in Revelation. By approaching Scripture as one purposefully flowing narrative, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the text, this book reinforces the Bible’s greatest teachings. 

This book is co-authored by former Ouachita Baptist University professor Preben Vang, who currently serves as professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Terry Carter, current Ouachita Baptist University professor. Carter is the associate dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University. 

The authors’ goal is to help readers improve their ability to share God’s story effectively with others. This is summed up by what John T. Brady, vice president of global strategy at the International Mission Board, writes at the beginning of the book. He says, “In the young vibrant movements to our Lord around the world today, there is a strong emphasis on knowing the acts of God through the people whose lives are recorded in the Bible. The simple but powerful storyline of God’s Word reveals the truth the Lord has used to set multitudes of men and women, boys and girls from around the globe free from bondage to sin and death. Vang and Carter have masterfully provided a tool in “Telling God’s Story” that will not only be personally transformational but empowering for those who seek to train others to be tellers of God’s great story.” 

This expanded second edition of “Telling God’s Story” now features beautiful charts, maps, photographs and illustrations in color. 

This book is ideal for classroom settings, such as Sunday school classes, that involve discussion time. Each chapter ends with discussion questions for your group to talk about and assignments for the following week’s class. Studying this book will give readers a better understanding and background of God’s story and its application to their lives.

Matt Ramsey is the director of communications for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Thursday
Nov282013

Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole

Book Review by 
Caleb Yarbrough

In his new book, “Manhood Restored,” Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, urges men to turn their focus to the gospel. Mason writes, “From beginning to end, God has a purpose for men. It’s a purpose that’s been lost but, in and through Jesus Christ, one that might yet be recovered. It’s time for manhood to be restored.” 

Consisting of eight chapters on specific and practical aspects of manhood, “Manhood Restored” is a call for men to recognize their Creator, their fall and the redemption and renewed “manhood” made available through Christ.

In the book’s preface, Mason writes, “I have written this book because men need to know that only through the gospel of Jesus Christ can they be what God intends.”

Mason states that he wrote “Manhood Restored” to be used as a  curriculum and “catalyst and primer for the intentional development of men,” in Sunday school classes, small groups and men’s ministry settings. Each chapter works together to paint an overarching message of Christ-centered manliness – yet they can also function individually, making the book a valuable tool for many ministry applications.

In chapter one, Mason addresses creation, God’s intended role for men, man’s fall from grace and how men can be made whole again through Christ, laying the foundation on which the rest of the book is built. In subsequent chapters, Mason addresses issues such as, sexuality, family, church, worldview and the prevalence of fatherlessness and how they can all be transformed through Jesus.

The subject of fatherlessness, or what Mason calls “Daddy Delinquency,” is one on which Mason focuses much time. He argues that the breakdown of the family and lack of strong fathers in many communities is due to the fact that many fathers do not base their lives and manhood on the model set forth by God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Manhood Restored” is an insightful resource for men of all ages. Mason tasks men not only to proclaim Christ, but also to actively emulate His life and relationship with God the Father. Often challenging, yet offered in brotherly love, “Manhood Restored” is a must-read for men seeking to grow closer to and be more like Christ in
today’s world.

Caleb Yarbrough is staff writer for the Arkansas Baptist News.