Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: NIV Proclamation Bible: Correctly Handling the Word of Truth

The Proclamation Bible is not a study Bible per se. It merely contains articles about how to teach the Bible.
Some of the articles are a bit problematic. Why? Because they are written from a Christian Teacher's perspective for Christian Teachers. And these folks are very very very educated theologians.  This means they know their stuff. But it also means that some of the articles are written in graduate theology-ese. Because while the writers know their stuff, they don't seem to know how to write about what they know to people who don't already know what they're talking about. These theologians are very aware that they are teachers and therefore knowledgeable.  They want to preach the word truly and rightly. And they are writing to other teachers.  So there is definitely a feel of a great US teachers versus all those other Christians (sheep) divide. It can be off-putting but I don't think it's meant to be.

The basic Bible set up:
A General Preface
Editor's Preface

What is the Bible by Mark D Thompson, Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney

A Bible Overview by Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe's Church Oxford, and President of Proclamation Trust

The Historical Reliability of the Bible by Dirk JongkindResearch Fellow in New Testament Text and Language, Tyndale House, Cambridge, and Deputy Senior Tutor, St Edmund's College, Cambridge

Finding the "Melodic Line" of a Book by Tim Ward, Associate Director of the Proclamation Trust Cornhill Training Course, London

From Text to Doctrine: The Bible and Theology by Peter Adam, Vicar Emeritus of St Jude's Carlton, and Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne

From Text to Life: Applying the Old Testament by David Jackman, Past President of the Proclamation Trust, London

From Text To Life: Applying the New Testament by Charles Skrine, Curate at St Helen's, Bishopsgate, London

From Text To Sermon: Preaching the Bible by Christopher Ash, Director of the Proclamation Trust Training Course London

From Text to Study: Small Groups and One-to-Ones by Leonie Mason, Trainer of Ministry Apprentices and Bible Study Leaders at St Helen's, Bishopsgate, London

Biblical Interpretaton: A Short History by Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama, and Director of Research at the Latimer Trust

Then the Bible itself begins.

Each book has an introduction which shows
The Message
Points to Consider
The layout of the Bible books is easy on the eyes with a good typefont. The type is dark and incredibly readable, unlike the NIV Spiritual Renewal Study Bible which has very light printing. The Scripture is placed in two columns on each page with cross-references in the middle of each page. The bottom of the page has definitions or alternate translations. There are sub-headings within chapters which will help guide the reader. There are also cross-references listed under the sub-headings if a scene or event is duplicated elsewhere. There are two ribbons for placeholders. Poetry is written in poetic form. Scriptures that are quoted in other Bible books are also set off in poetic form. The words of Jesus are not in red.
There is a Table of Weights and Measures

It's a solid hardcover Bible.

For better or worse, the key word throughout most of this book is training; Theologians training others on how to read Scripture, how to understand Scripture, how to teach Scripture, and how to hear the Holy Spirit. There are many patterns to learn here, all of which will be helpful to some or all Bible teachers. But which could become almost legalistic and prohibitive if doggedly followed.

The best thing about this Bible are the introduction to each of the Bible books. They are very insightful and the vocabulary is accessible to anyone. Those introductions alone are worth the price. The second-best thing are the articles in the front of the Bible about how to understand, read, and teach the Bible. But I say second-best because I suspect the folks who most need those articles might be the folks who can't get through them.

I can understand a book written on a college graduate level. But I cannot imagine these articles being accessible to pastors who may not have had much college. Some of the article writers write as if they are writing a graduate thesis! At that time, one feels as if one is wading through a tome on linguistics written by a computer because the writer seems to have forgotten how to write conversationally. Other times the writer seems to be "speaking to the choir" because he is using jargon -- even though he thinks he is not-- and terms only church folks use. So this book will bless many people. It's a Bible after all. But it would be most useful for the super-educated types and for new pastors who might want to know and use certain patterns in their teaching and preaching.

As a Charismatic Christian, I would probably dislike some of the patterns recommended by some of these teachers but a good workman knows how and when to use the rules and how and when to put them aside. Also, as someone who thought Calvin was a means-spirited and possible false prophet, I don't know if I can trust his pattern of exegesis as much as Gerald Bray does.

But all in all this is a good book.  Those who like the NIV translation will like it.
I received this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movie Review: August Eighth

August Eighth 2012 Russian action fantasy drama Screenplay by Michael Lerner. Directed by Dzhanik Fayziev. Kseniya (Svetlana Ivanova) ,  Artyom (Artyom Fadeev) 2 hours 12 minutes

Okay, to begin with, this film is pure propaganda. But what wonderful propaganda it is! I debated whether this review should be included because the fantastical part of the film is understood to be fantasy. In that way, this film reminded me of Pan’s Labyrinth because the fantasy is a child’s reaction to the warring world all around. So if Pan’s Labyrinth is fantasy, then this is as well.

The story begins with Artyom in his fantastical alter-ego of Cosmoboy. His noble, self-sacrificing sidekick Kind Robot is helping him battle Robot Darklord. The scene shifts to a theater where Artyom is watching an amateur theatrical production about dragons. After this, Mom and Artyom are on their way home discussing family dynamics. Just at that moment, Darklord pops up in Transformers mode. Artyom warns his mom but gets rebuked with “Why do you always talk about robots when I want to talk about something important?” Not that mom should talk, she also has moments when the fantastical emerges out of the blue.

The something important that Kseniya wanted to talk about is Egor, her new boyfriend. Truth to tell, Egor’s full of himself. But to be fair, he’s got a good job and so he’s a big find for the artistic single mom Kseniya. Besides, she’s only in her early twenties and her son is seven.  She hasn’t had a chance to grow up yet. So I cut her a lot of slack.

When Zaur, Artyom’s dad, an Ossetian “peacekeeper” asks Kseniya to send their son to Zaur’s parents, Kseniya doesn’t want to. There’s a conflict going on in that region. But heck the conflict has been going on for 150 years, says ex-beau. Nothing’s gonna happen. Kseniya’s still not sure but hey, Artyom’s dad misses him, the grandfolks are getting old, AND boyfriend with the good job did after all invite her to go on a vacation with him.  So she sends Artyom off, trusting in Zaur’s promise that he’ll send their son back should trouble arise.  

There’s this wonderful bucolic scene with cows, happy peasants, loving grandfolks, and women in babushkas. And then, wouldn’t you know it? The Five Day War threatens to break out. And annoying Ex refuses to send the child back.  Seriously, the men in this movie are useless. And so Kseniya’s quest to go to war-torn territory to get back her son begins.

Folks, this is one fun movie! Mother's Love and War battles! IF you like war movies, don't miss this one on netflix.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death
Rebecca Alexander
ISBN: 978-0-8041-4068-3
Broadway Books
US $15.00

The Secrets of Life and Death is a good summer read for anyone who likes mysteries and women in jeopardy books. It's also paranormal, urban fantasy. This is a safe book for anyone who wants to do some good bloody escapist reading. It is historical urban fantasy and based on the life of the murderous Elizabeth Bathory, the life and travels of Edward Kelley and Dr. John Dee. 

This is a quick, easy read for folks who might like supernatural mysteries of the undead variety. And it does make one ponder certain deep questions like: “Can a religious person be deceived by a demon?” and “Why is living so important?” 

Those who like historical fiction will love discovering more about the times and mores of Elizabeth Bathory and the royalty of Poland. Those who like urban fantasy will find it a page-turner. There's even a good romance. It's dark fiction but light reading.

It left me a little cold because there were moments that felt very high concept generic blockbuster-ish. But if you want a good semi-predictable read, this is a good book. I did get a bit offended at the depiction of the religious character Edward Kelley who is the counterpart of “good witch” Maggie and who is the typical deluded superstitious religious Christian who  is somewhat deceived about angels, herbalism, and (of course) women. But hey, it's par for the course. 

This book was sent to me free in return for a fair and honest review. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Miracle on Voodoo Mountain by Megan Boudreaux

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain
A Young Woman's Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti
By Megan Boudreaux
Thomas Nelson Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-5291-1094-7

Whenever I read Christian non-fiction, especially testimonies and memoirs, I always approach them with extreme cynicism. This is because as a Christian I've been burned by Christian platitudes and self-righteousness, and as a writer I've honed an ability to sense the ring of truth. Thus, my spiritual "BS" meter is pretty highly-developed. Therefore, if I read a book and say it's good and believable, I am to be trusted. This is a really really good book and it does what good Christian testimonies should do. It highlights the power of Jesus Christ in the world as He works through His people. And it shows us how needy, evil, and lost the world is.

It's the first-person memoir written by Megan Boudreaux about how she began working with and for poor, abused, orphaned, and/or enslaved children in Haiti. Throughout her narrative, Boudreaux is real, strong and good without being pretentiously pious, and also very informative about how dangerous uninformed American Christian charity can be.

After having repeated dreams of a tamarind tree in a suburb in Haiti, Megan decides to give up her perfect job and to follow what she feels is a call from God. In Haiti, she's a bit at a loss where to begin or what exactly she has been called to do. But one small encounter with a restovak -- an enslaved child-- starts her journey. One thing leads to another and soon she is feeding starving children, building schoolrooms, and being threatened by voodoo priests. She encounters corruption in various forms and discovers how poor children and well-intentioned Christian churches are used by false orphanages and child traffickers.

All the while, Boudreaux writes honestly, humbly, and in a conversational engaging style.

I'll admit, though, that the title turned me off initially. I avoid anything that seems hyperbolic. But the book really is about a great work done by a young Christian woman. I highly recommend this.

This wbok was sent to me free by Booklookbloggers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Review: Chewed Confessions by Cheryl Kirwan

  • Chewed Confessions 
  • by Cheryl Kirwan

  • File Size: 337 KB
  • Print Length: 178 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (April 22, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CHCQO68

I love omnibus novels, a collection of short stories composed of characters who are connected with each other by chance, location, or situation. In omnibus novels, a secondary character in one story will become a main character in another. Sometimes the omnibus is complicated as in Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa, where characters are unnamed, inter-connected to the extreme (yet often strangers to each other), and who affect each other's lives for the worst.

In Chewed Confession, characters are connected in a straight-forward linear manner. In this case, the characters in these stories are often friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Thus the main character of one story might casually call a friend or family member and this friend becomes the main character in the following story. This is generally the pattern throughout.

The narrators in each character study are different flavors of gum. So the reader encounters two new characters with each story: a character and a gum with a flavor name. Hence we have narratives from Cherry ubilee, Minty Chocolate, Peppermint, Clove, Cinnamon, Mega Mint Delight, Summer Mint, Triple Bubble, and Fruity Explosion. They relate the lives of Jason, Peter, Abby, Piper, Rita, Matthew, Artie, Rudy, and Lester -- people of different ages, and sexes.

Despite the difference in flavors, the wads of gum generally have the same speaking voice and personality. They also have the same destinies: they are removed from a wrapper, chewed in distinctive styles depending on the personality and stress of the chewer, then discarded...either on the ground or in a bin. The human characters are either stressed -- because of divorce proceedings, civil lawsuits, dating and love and relationship issues-- or are going through life causing stress to others. The wads of gum describe the lives of the human chewers as they describe their own lives as they are chewed, tongue-throttled, etc.

This is a good collection of short stories. They work together as an omnibus novel although the overall feel is of a series of scattered events in the lives of disparate characters. In this way, they are like character studies and the wad of gum's summation at the end of each story gives a moral of the life event the reader has witnessed.  This can be a bit much but I suppose that gums chew on what they have witnessed or seen in the lives of their human chewers and moralizing become part of their personality as they share with other gum acquaintances what they have digested in their short lives.

It's a fun book. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

Review: A Plague of Unicorns

A Plague of Unicorns
Jane Yolen
ISBN: 978-0-310-74648-5

Even as a child, I’ve loved stories about the trials, journeys, and quests that boys endure. I’m not sure why. I’d like to think I focus so much on stories with boy teen protagonists for some wonderfully sane and enlightened reason. But I don’t think that’s wholly true. I suspect some part of it is my personality but the other part might simply be that I grew up on the stuff: Shakespearean characters, Grimm fairytales, cultural folklore, and all those tragic Bible princes tend to be pretty boy-focused.

The golden apples in Cranford Abbey haven't been particularly useful and so the monks and abbots have allowed the unicorns to nibble them. However, when Abbot Aelian arrives, he brings with him his greagrandmother's recipe for Gold Apple Cider. The unicorns and their nibbling will have to go.

But unicorns are not easily gotten rid of. Even though heroes come from many nations to battle them.

James is not a hero. He is a very energetic very curious future duke who continually pummels everyone for miles around with questions, especially unanswerable ones. He is the one who figures out how to get rid of the unicorns.

This is a fun humorous, little book. The vocabulary is easy enough for middle readers, although it takes place in a Roman Catholic world, and there are Roman Catholic words scattered throughout. Theis might be problematic for some children who have never heard words like abbeys, abbots, and turrets thrown around. But one does not have to be Roman Catholic to enjoy it and a child who reads about knights and dungeons will enter the worldbuilding of this story easily.

There is nothing offensive to Christians to it, no wizards or ogres. So Christian readers who are against certain fantastical elements should like it. It's not religious but people with extreme atheists or extreme Islamic beliefs might be upset about mentions of the Bible.  

The illustrations are black and white and nicely-done. Recommended.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Authority in Prayer: Praying with Power and Purpose

Authority in Prayer: Praying with Power and Purpose
by Dutch Sheets
Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1173-7
US $15.99

Over the ages, there has been much confusion about “authority” in the Christian church. For many denominations like Roman Catholicism, it implies human hierarchy. For some churches, the word  “authority” conjures up ideas of Apostolic Succession. The author of this book is writing about the word for a charismatic, full-gospel, and pentecostal readership. Here the meaning described the Christian believer’s authority over a particular sphere God has given him.

But there is still not a general consensus about how much authority the believer has. Generally speaking, these spheres of authority include authority over certain kinds of physical and mental states such as disease and the power of sin; authority over demons, and authority over certain groups such as family, church, geographic regions.

Dutch Sheets has written a book which shows the Biblical reasons for his belief about authority in prayer. He describes the purpose of God in creating Man, and what was lost when the First Adam fell. There are doctrinal definitions of authority versus power, and Satan’s loss of Authority over certain spheres because of Jesus’ perfect life, death, shed blood, and resurrection. Then he describes how Jesus Christ --the Second Adam-- returned that authority to us. There are also many examples, testimonies, and anecdotes about how authority has helped in the lives of Christians. Some of these examples show Dutch Sheets himself and/or some of his friends working behind the scenes to affect the outcome of the nation. These examples might sound a bit arrogant, far-fetched, wild-eyed, or innocent to readers who don’t believe that God works through people.

But the author appears so humble -- and never states that he alone can use his authority in Christ-- that one can easily believe these testimonies. Those Christians who do not know anything about the authority of Christ might be put off by the fact that someone believes in supernatural answers to prayer. They will also have to put aside some of their Calvinist fatalism or change some of their definition of God’s sovereignty. (The book doesn’t go overboard into dominionism.) Certainly, people raised to believe that suffering is ordained of God and must be patiently endured will have to truly ponder the choice and power inherent in this doctrine of authority.

There is much humor in this book, and it feels like a conversational memoir. There are also Bible verses that explain this doctrine. This is definitely a good book to read if one wants to understand a balanced presentation of the Christian doctrine of authority. Recommended.

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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