Reformation Commentary on Scripture III Luke Edited by Beth Kreitzer

LukeReformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament III – Luke. Edited by Beth Kreitzer. General Editor, Timothy George, Associate General Editor, Scott M. Manetsch. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. 629 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster books for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Dr. Kreitzer is the director of the program in Liberal Studies at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. This commentary series is a 28-volume commentary “bringing the insights of the Reformation to the contemporary church.” I have reviewed two previous volumes in this series. Those reviews can be found here.

Summary

Obviously, this is a commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Therefore, the reader would treat it as a resource rather than reading it straight through. That being stated, as the student of the Bible proceeds through the text, a short, few word synopsis of how a particular Reformer understood the biblical text is to be found. For example, in Luke 3:15-18, you have the heading “John is not the Coming Messiah” followed by “John’s Sacrament Does Not Give the Spirit” in small caps followed by the name Huldrych Zwingli.

After reading Zwingli’s commentary on the passage, you would read Easumus’ take in that “John acknowledges that his baptism cannot convey the Spirit Without Christ.” Next, you would read Calvin’s thoughts under the heading “Christ Wields the Winnowing Fork of the Gospel.”

As can be seen, this work is full of snippet of information on how the text was understood at an important time in the history of the church.

Review

Given the recent plethora of digital writings from the Reformation, this commentary helps to bring together major streams of thoughts concerning the interpretation and application of Scripture both then and now.

Also, the biographical sketches of the men and their works at the end of this volume is extremely invaluable for the modern reader. What sets this commentary apart from others is that it offers a wide swath of views. We quickly see how the Reformers agreed on the essentials of the Christian faith yet often disagreed on the non-essentials. This is an important lesson for us to learn today as many want to elevate the non-essentials to essentials.

Another element to this commentary that is extremely helpful is the overview of the general thought of the Reformers concerning the larger sections. This helps the reader trace the thinking of the forest so to speak to better understand the individual trees.

I was a bit surprised at how relatively small this commentary was compared to those of say Darrell Bock and Philip Ryken, which like many others, are multiple volume commentaries on Luke. Regardless, there is plenty of information included that will be an aid to the student.

Recommendation

If you are a Protestant and a serious student of the Bible, I highly recommend this series of commentaries. Luke is one of the richest gospels, especially concerning detailed accounts of the life of Christ. Beth Kreitzer has greatly aided modern evangelicalism’s understanding of this gospel with her work on bringing together the thoughts of the Reformers.

David Ascendant by Brian Godawa

David AscendantGodawa, Brian. David Ascendant: Chronicles of the Nephilim, Book Seven. Los Angeles: Embedded Pictures Publishing, 2014. 504 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

This is now the seventh book in the Chronicles of Nephilim series. I have reviewed most of the series here. There are yet two more books to come in this series to my knowledge.

Summary

Here is yet another video that offers a brief summary of this work:

And, from the back of the book:

Six Giant Assassins. Goliath Was Only the First.

Everyone knows the story of David. Or so you think. No one has heard it told this way before.

In the days of Samuel the Seer, the Philistines are at the climax of a long war with Israel over the land of Canaan. There are still giants in Philistia left from Joshua’s search and destroy mission of holy war generations earlier. Their numbers have grown.

The young Philistine giant warrior Goliath steals the sacred ark of the covenant from Israel. But Yahweh’s curse upon Goliath’s people for that deed sets in motion an obsession of revenge and the creation of an elite warrior cult of giants, The Sons of Rapha, whose sole ambition is to kill the promised messiah king of Israel.

The only problem is, Israel’s King Saul is not that chosen one, because he is possessed by the evil spirit of an ancient malevolent ruler who seeks to kill that same unknown and spiritually anointed king.

They both discover it is David, son of Jesse, a young insignificant shepherd musician who woos the girls, and who miraculously slays Goliath in a battle contest. But now David is running for his life from both family and foe, gathering outlaws as allies, and eventually hiding in the one place no one would ever dream of: Goliath’s home town, the Philistine city of Gath.

With David in the Serpent’s lair, the queen of Gath trying to seduce him, King Saul and the Philistine giants trying to assassinate him, and David’s three wives all vying for his attention, this gritty romantic action adventure story will take you places in the Bible you’ve never seen before.

You think you know how it ends. But there is so much more to the story than you ever realized. The War of the Seed continues with the Philistines vs. the Messiah King of Israel.

Review

I honestly enjoyed this book more than the previous six. David is one of those beloved Biblical characters that we wished we knew more about than what the Bible tells us. While Brian does not necessarily have historic works on the life of King David outside of Scripture, he does have cultural knowledge and a historic understanding of ancient Israel that many do not. Furthermore, he has a fertile imagination that many of us do not.

By combining his imagination with his knowledge, Brian offers up a true to life understanding of the person of David that will both shock and comfort the reader. He shows how David was a man after God’s own heart, but also how he was a man nonetheless.

Again, it is important to note that even though Godawa is writing about men and women found in the pages of the Bible, he is neither adding or subtracting from the story. When one reads these novels, they must understand that he is simply retelling the story along time honored traditions found throughout the world. Specifically, those traditions found in the ancient Middle East of the Bible lands.

Recommendation

I believe this is the longest of the books in the series and is also the best in terms of reading as a stand alone rather than in the series. If you want to pick up in the middle of the series, this is the book to read. Regardless, I think you would be best served to begin at the beginning. Keep in mind, Brian continues his very adult-themed approach to the sensuality and grotesque murders and therefore this book ought to be read by those who are mature enough for such books.

Caleb Vigilant by Brian Godawa

Caleb VigilantGodawa, Brian. Caleb Vigilant – Chronicles of the Nephilim, Book Six. Los Angeles: Embedded Pictures Publishing, 2013. $15.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

This is now the fifth of the six books in this series by Brian Godawa I have reviewed. Caleb Vigilant is a companion novel to Joshua Valiant and thus is a shorter work than the other titles.

Summary

Watch this video for a quick summary:

From the back of the book:

In this second companion volume to Joshua Valiant, the story of the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan continues. Moses has died, the Israelites stand poised to invade Canaan. Their first target: The impenetrable mighty walls of Jericho.

But God has been preparing a pagan harlot named Rahab to help Israel. They soon discover through prophecy that she is a crucial link to God’s plan of redemption for the Seed of Abraham. And she has fallen in love with an Israelite warrior whose child she bears.

Unfortunately, the Anakim giants of Canaan have also discovered Rahab’s identity and have sent assassins to take her out.

At the same time, Joshua and Caleb assault the Anakim stronghold and face the tallest, most ruthless of all giants: The brothers Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai.

Worse yet, the patron deity of the Anakim is the storm god Ba’al. They’re going to need the archangels’ help or they haven’t got a chance.

This is what the War of the Seed has been building towards.

Review

You have to love Brian Godawa. He begins the book with “notes to the reader.” Here is his first paragraph:

For those who are new to the series and have not read previous volumes, there is much imagination in this novel and its companion volume, Joshua Valiant, that may freak out Christians who are unfamiliar with the ancient Near Eastern worldview and mindset within which the writers of Scripture themselves lived and wrote.

In other words, this book is unlike anything you have ever read before if you do not read works of antiquity with any regularity. In true to Godawa form, there is much in the way of sexual references (both godly and mostly ungodly – thanks Nephilim!).

What makes this book more appealing to the Christian is that Brian strives to add, with historical acumen, a literal rendering of what was implied by the Old Testament writers of our sacred stories. For Caleb this involves the taking of Jericho and the conquest of Canaan in addition to protecting the harlot Rahab who protected the Israelites.

The best part is that Godawa aids the Christian to see a particular aspect of the meta-narrative of the Bible – the promised seed of the woman crushing the seed of the serpent.

Recommendation

Again, due to its adult nature, I can only recommend this work for the mature reader. That being said, I would also recommend not picking up the series mid-story. There is so much lost if this is done. Read this work with understanding that it is, in essence, historical fiction.

The Works of John Knox Volume 1

Works-of-John-Knox-Volume-1The Works of John Knox Volume 1. Edited by David Laing. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014. 564 pp. Purchase the 6- Volume set for $139.00 or get it on Kindle for $2.99.

Introduction

Because of the 500th anniversary of his birth, John Knox has experienced a rebirth so to speak in today’s Reformed circles. His story is one of fascination and exemplary leadership in a time where it was not exactly easy to be a Christian.

This reprinting with the edits of David Laing are actually from 1895. The language has been updated and standardized for today’s reader though there remains many explanatory notes throughout each edition.

Summary

The first volume includes a chronological life of John Knox which simply offers the reader a quick time-table of when he lived and what was happening in the world around him. The majority of this volume is comprised of the first two books of Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland. Also included are 18 appendices that offer different renderings of words and phrases as well as biographical information that will aid the reader throughout the entirety of the volume. In essence, this is an annotated index of sorts.

Review

What is most fascinating about this particular volume is the great care in which Knox recounted the Reformation in Scotland. It is full of footnotes in addition to the aforementioned indices. So much so that the reader will probably spend half the time reading the necessary explanatory notes in order to understand the text and the history.

With so much time having passed since the last publication of these works, the only significant change has been that of the year of Knox’s birth. In other words, we find Knox to have been a very careful historian. To read the history from his own pen brings the reader to a first hand account of what took place from in Scotland from the years 1494-1559.

The language barrier may be tough at first, but the reader would do well to scale that barrier and seek to understand Knox on his own terms rather than through the lens of a biographer.

Recommendation

Not everyone will want to fork over $140 for a set of books. I understand that and would recommend that you first purchase the Kindle edition for $3.00 and begin reading. Ultimately, I recommend the hardback edition simply because the reader will want to underline, take notes, and have the actual book. As they come available as single units, you would do well to purchase one at a time and read through it before purchasing the next.  In the end, you will not regret this investment both of your money and your time spent reading.

The Leadership Handbook by John C. Maxwell

Leadership HandbookMaxwell, John C. The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015. 260 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

I recently reviewed The Maxwell Leadership Bible and found it to be beneficial insofar as leadership qualities are concerned. Harper Collins recently re-released The Leadership Handbook so I figured I would check it out as well.  For more information on John Maxwell, you can check out his website.

Summary

As evidenced by the title, this work consists of 26 chapters over 260 pages. Quick math will tell you that this is a short introduction to these “critical lessons every leader needs.”

Chapter one begins with an exhortation that it is not good to be lonely at the top. Beginning with this foundation, Maxwell proceeds to explain how to develop yourself as a leader. For example, you are the toughest person to lead yet you need to be the one to define reality and manage your life for others to be able to follow.

At the end of each chapter, there are application exercises as well as mentoring moments that are meant to aid the reader in becoming a better leader. In essence, here are some immediate and practical tips you can use to implement the ideas you just read.

Review

There has been much written for (and against) John C. Maxwell regarding his focus on leadership. One thing ought to be said, however. His source material is that of Scripture. Does he pull from other resources? Absolutely. But, he allows the Bible to influence his thinking on this most important topic of leadership.

His 26 lessons offers keen insight by one who has “been there and done that.” In other words, he is not a 30-something writing on his understanding and little bit of experience as a leader. Rather, he has spent an entire career training up leaders as a leader. He writes with a knowledge few have. Further, he writes with conviction and humility even fewer possess.

All this to say that you will not agree with everything he states. He will cause you to think and he will challenge your preconceptions. Read with discernment but also read with humility.

Recommendation

I am learning to appreciate Maxwell’s books more and more. I can recommend this resource to any who want to become a better leader whether you are a Christian or not.

Duck Commander Devotions for Kids by Korie Robertson & Chrys Howard

Devotions for KidsRobertson, Korie and Chrys Howard. Illustrated by Holli Conger. Duck Commander Devotions for Kids. Nasville: Tommy Nelson, 2015.  223 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have confessed to not being a fan of Duck Dynasty let alone having ever watched an episode. I have, however, reviewed another resource from this marketing juggernaut: The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible. Now, the wives are at it penning a devotional for children.

Summary

Comprised of 103 devotions that are two pages in length, each day begins with a verse from the NIV and then springboards into a short devotional meant to drive home a particular point. Many of these devotions begin with a snippet of information about the Robertson family or a reference to an event in one’s life that many (if not all) children have experienced.

Each devotion concludes with a prayer as well as a “Duck Commander in Action” section where the child is directed to some activity to help implement and cement the lesson for that day.

Review

While one may charge that the devotionals border on moralism (don’t most of today’s devotionals?) I think it would be wise to understand that they are writing to a young audience that seems to be more and more void of morals than ever before.

I was impressed with the regularity in which they pushed children to trust in Christ. At the end of the 103 day/week devotional there will have been many topics discussed. All of them will appeal to both your child’s imagination and drive them, Lord willing, to a deeper understanding of what it means to walk with the Lord. At the very least, they will begin to see how it is genuinely impossible to do all that the Lord commands us!

Recommendation

As far as devotionals go for children, this is pretty nice. I found it interesting and very engaging as well as full of biblical truth. I can recommend this devotional as long as it is part of a larger Bible reading plan for the entire family.

A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement by Gary L. Shultz, Jr.

MIVOEAShultz, Gary L. A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2013. 253 pp. $24.00. Purchase from Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Dr. Gary L. Shultz, Jr. serves as pastor of FBC Fulton in Missouri. This work is the result of his dissertation for his PhD at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University Online and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary.

Full disclosure: Gary and I pastor in the same association. I consider him a friend of mine.

Summary

Divided into six chapters, Shultz takes on a centuries old debate regarding the extent of the atonement. The first chapter introduces the need for this discussion as well as his proposed multi-intentioned view. The second chapter is a 42 page historical overview oh this view.

Chapter three offers an apologetic for Christ’s payment for the sins of all the people when He died on the cross at Calvary. Chapters four and five look at the general intentions and then the particular intentions respectively. The final chapter, six, offers his concluding statements and why his multi-intentioned view is to be strongly considered over a general or particular view of the atonement.

Review

From the outset, I want to clearly state that I hold to a particular, a la, limited, view of the atonement. That being said, I found Gary’s view intriguing and one that ought to be considered and not simply brushed aside in a footnote (as was done in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her). He makes a strong case that both sides of the discussion get some things right and some things wrong.

One of the areas I felt Gary overstated his argument was that common grace necessitated Christ’s atonement being for every person in history when He died on the cross. This condition only seems to be necessary for a finite, sinful, human mind to wrestle with. The truth is, God needs no reason to extend common grace with His rain and sunshine, etc. Neither does it seem necessary to amend the doctrine of common grace to include the extent of the atonement.

Second, he never fully dealt with the issue of those who have never heard of the gospel (think deep jungles of Amazon). What happens to them? Where is God’s common grace for them? How does the atonement apply to those who have never heard their need of Jesus Christ?  If the extent of the atonement is to be equated with God’s common grace for all people, then these are some tough questions that need to be answered.

In many of the texts he cites, he argues that the language of Paul and the other apostles demand an appeal to a general atonement. One passage was 1 Corinthians 15:2, “Christ died for our sins.” The charge was how could Paul say “our sins” if the atonement was not general? The reality is the context of this passage is that Paul is writing to a decidedly Christian audience. Furthermore, one must understand that as finite human beings, we do not know the ways of God. Hence, Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Interestingly, this verse is never mentioned in this work.

Ultimately, one could say that regardless of your view of the atonement, if it is not driving you to missions and evangelism for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom, then you need to rethink your theology. Personally, as stated above, I hold to a limited view of the atonement. That in no way restricts my willingness or the necessity to broadly proclaim the gospel to the whole world. Truth be told, I have no idea who the elect are and because of that I proclaim the Gospel to as many as possible knowing that the Word of God will not return void.

Gary does an exceptional job of displaying each view (general and particular) in its own context and according to their merits while also showing where they leave questions to be asked that are, quite honestly, difficult to answer. In the end, however, I told Gary that while he may not view this as a third-way approach, it really is.

As a pastor and theologian I get the want of being able to explain the unexplainable. The truth is, we must understand that the Christian life is full of tension as we attempt to wrestle with an infinite God. We need to accept that tension as reality.

What I do believe Gary does an excellent job of is to help both sides of the discussion see how their particular arguments for the atonement (be they general or limited) have strengths and weaknesses. I also applaud his efforts and bringing these two into harmony. I can honestly say that I was challenged by this work and found it to be very stimulating as evidenced by the number of notes I took in the margins.

Recommendation

If you are interested in what is popularly known as the Calvin/Arminian Debate, I highly recommend book. Gary helps the reader to think through and understand better your own view. Be careful though, you might find that your views are challenged and you may need to change your mind. Regardless, this is a work that deserves to be considered when wading through the volumes of material on the discussion.

 

Miracles of Jesus Zonderkidz Adventure Bible

Miracles of JesusMiracles of Jesus (I Can Read! Adventure Bible). Illustrated by David Miles. Grand Rapids: ZonderKidz, 2014. 32 pp. $3.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction/Summary

Miracles of Jesus is a level two I Can Read! based on the NIV Adventure Bible. This particular edition of this ongoing series looks at two particular passages in the New Testament: The raising of Jairus’ daughter and the feeding of the 5,000.  Along the way, we find Jesus healing a woman sick for many years.

At the end of the book is a “did you know?” section which offers a few other miracles that are more well known. Also, they allude to the only two miracles that are found in all four gospels: the feeding of 5,000 and the resurrection of Jesus.

Review

Though they water down the healing of the sick woman, I found this work to be enjoyable and a platform in which I was able to explain more deeply the importance of the miracles. Once again, I like the genre of teaching children to read while using the Bible even if the language is brought down to their level. The beauty ends up being their familiarity with the Word of God as they grow up.

Recommendation

As with all of these learn to read books I have reviewed, I recommend this one. What better, and truly more missionally minded way can you teach a child to read than using the Bible and the stories found therein?

The First Easter Day by Jill Roman Lord

The First Easter DayLord, Jill Roman. Illustrated by Michelle Henninger. The First Easter Day: A Touch and Feel Book. Nashville: CandyCane Press, 2013. 16pp. $8.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction/Summary

What would it have been like to be present on Easter Day? This sweet board book with textures helps children imagine just that. From a little bee buzzing with excitement that Jesus is alive to a bunny hopping in delight and the sun shining down on the risen Lord, children will be able to feel as well as see the events of the first Easter morning. The narrator considers various perspectives on the Resurrection and the joy felt by all who loved Jesus. Charmingly illustrated, this book is a great way to introduce children to the good news of Easter.

Review

This little touch and feel board book is a cute and fun way to introduce your toddler to the fact of the first Easter Sunday. Each animal wants to proclaim the resurrection to everyone or to go and see Jesus. In the end, the child states that Jesus resurrected to “give new life to me.”

This is a perfect opportunity to engage your child with their need of salvation in Christ. Granted, there are no mentions of sin (hence, why we need new life), but there is enough here to begin a conversation with your child on why Jesus had to rise from the grave.

This is a perfect book to have sitting on a coffee table for your child to read to your child or grandchild or even for them to flip through and play around with.

Recommendation

If you have children or grandchildren or know those with children, you will want to get this board book. It is an excellent year round gospel conversation starter with children…and perhaps with their parents.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

Seeing and Savoring Jesus ChristPiper, John. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001. 142 pp. $9.99. Purchase at Westminster for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I read and am reviewing the 2001 edition. What is pictured and linked to is the 2004 revised edition which is a paperback.

John Piper needs no introduction. For those that have never heard of please check out his ministry’s website, Desiring God. You can get most every book they have free in PDF as well as all of his sermons and podcasts.

Summary

Divided into thirteen chapters, Piper takes the reader on a journey from understanding the ultimate aim of Jesus to nuggets of truth as to what what Jesus came to do. Along the way, you will learn the deity and excellence of Christ while also considering His power and wisdom.

As Piper brings the reader to the apex of the joy of Christ, he also shows us the glory of Christ as he helps you to consider the anguish and saving sacrifice of Jesus. He concludes with meditation on Christ’s resurrection and His promised Second Coming.

Review

I read this book because in a recent podcast, John Piper stated that if he were to recommend any one book of his to read first it would Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. That caught me by surprise a bit. I had read this years ago when I first came to Christ but had it sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I decided to reread it and now understand why Piper says he himself rereads this book often.

Each chapter is short and can be read devotionally or, quite honestly in one night. I chose to read the book in the morning after my daily Scripture reading. My discovery was that it quickened my heart to the things of God in such a concerted effort that I could not help but meditate on Christ throughout the day.

Each chapter was saturated with Scripture and every chapter ended with a concerted prayer in to help one converse with God. I usually do not read these prayers as I find it often difficult to pray someone else’s prayer, but these were different. I found the prayers to be a spring board to deeper communion with God.

Recommendation

It would be easy to say that if Piper recommends this book, I recommend this book. Too be honest, it was because he stated that he rereads this book often to be reminded of Christ’s glories. If John Piper needs a reminder, then so do I, and I think I can safely assume, so do you. Please get yourself a copy and read and reread this quality devotional that will draw you to Christ.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books