Monday, June 30, 2014

Barnabas Piper writes about The Pastor's Kid

If you’re looking for a tabloid-style exposé of life in the Piper household (and you really shouldn’t be), you’re not going to find it in Barnabas Piper’s book, The Pastor’s Kid. It’s more of a personal reflection on life as a PK intermingled with advice to PKs on how to navigate growing up in a “fishbowl”, to pastors on how to raise their children, and to churches on how to treat pastors and their families.

I was never a PK, but having grown up in a family that was very active in church, I found that a lot of what he had to say fit within my own experience as a “church kid”—one of those kids whose parents were really involved in ministry. To some extent, there’s something here that everyone can identify with; every kid has to deal with the challenges of growing up; good parenting advice for pastors is still good parenting advice. Period.

Piper’s book does fall short in one particular area. Most of the book was undergirded by a strong negative vibe. If John Piper has to attempt to excuse it in the foreword, you know the book is going to be a little harsh:
“You will ask, ‘Was it painful for me to read this book?’ The answer is yes. For at least three reasons. First, it exposes sins and weaknesses and imperfections in me. Second, it is not always clear which of its criticisms attach to me and the church I love. Third, this is my son, and he is writing out of his own sorrows…”
Few of us make it through childhood without some wounds and trauma. Had Piper decided to coauthor the book with his father rather than print it and get his father’s endorsement, I’m sure the negativity would have been tempered through their own interaction, tears, and forgiveness. It appears that Barnabas Piper wrote his book without consulting with his father, and as such, the book does not benefit from the father-son perspective that could have made it great.

I received this audiobook from christianaudio for the purpose of providing a review.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Titus For You (God's Word for You)

I’ve read the first three books in the God’s Word for You series, all written out of studies by Tim Keller. This volume on Titus is slightly shorter than the rest, coming in at about 120 pages, which makes sense since Titus is one of the shortest books in the Bible. However, there’s still plenty to glean from this New Testament epistle, and Tim Chester works through each verse to bring the treasure of God’s word to light. The verse-by-verse format makes this a popular-level resource for personal and small group Bible study as well as an example for preachers who preach exegetically through whole books of the Bible.

As mentioned, Tim Chester writes this book in the series, making it the first book not written by Tim Keller. Future volumes will come from Chester, Keller, and others. The style of the book does not stray from the other volumes in the series—sermon-like with clear explanation coupled with practical application. The most noticeable difference between Chester’s work and that of Keller comes from some language and idioms not found in American English (Chester lives in the United Kingdom). These “Englishisms” didn’t detract from the reading experience, but I did stop for a moment when I came across them.

The book of Titus itself is not a very controversial book, although some academic circles debate whether Paul wrote it or not. Chester does not mess with those discussions and takes for granted Pauline authorship. His commitment to the inspiration and authority of Scripture sets him squarely within the Evangelical tradition. Although he does take a minority position that the “Great God and Savior” refers to God the Father rather than Jesus, he gives textual reasons for doing so and holds firmly to the deity of Christ.

The pastoral content of the epistle itself and Chester’s years of experience in ministry commends Titus for You to young minister’s and the congregations they lead, but anyone can benefit from the clear exposition of God’s word. Hence the title: Titus for You.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The NIV ReadEasy Bible may be for you

The NIV ReadEasy Bible has two main design goals: readability and portability. I will evaluate both of these aspects and then give additional thoughts on my overall impression.

Large print size and a lack of distracting extras like study notes and cross references account for its main draw as a reader's Bible. It retains standard features like section headings, chapters, and verses for easy navigation, and it opts for the less-than-standard words of Christ in red. I don't prefer the red letters because they are not any more important than the black letters, and because they appear a little lighter than the surrounding text, making it slightly less readable.

Zondervan also went with two-column pages, which is a very common practice in Bible publishing, but makes for ugly and confusing line breaks in poetry sections, such as the Psalms and Proverbs. For it to truly be "ReadEasy," it should have been single-column.

The Bible weighs in at 1.8 pounds, is 8.75 inches long, and 5.88 inches wide. It's about the same size as my thinline ESV and fits in a generic Bible case. It's about 0.4 pounds heavier than my thinline ESV, which is about the difference between the weight of a first generation iPad and the current iPad Air. In order to save on weight and size, the Bible has very small margins and the paper is somewhat thin, with text visible from the other side of the page. I would not recommend using typical on this Bible (I prefer crayon pens). Of course, with thin margins and thin paper, the intent is not to mark up this Bible with personal notes, but to read it.

Closing Thoughts
Inside the cover is a large presentation page, which tips me off that this Bible is intended as a special gift, perhaps to graduates, new believers, or people involved in teaching ministry. The Italian Duo-Tone cover is imitation leather, but it holds up well. I've had another Bible with the same type of cover for over 10 years, and, while it shows some wear, it's still pretty sturdy.

I occasionally preach at a church that uses the NIV, and I plan to make this Bible my preaching Bible. The font size is good for reading without leaning too far over the podium. I also like that it will fit in my Bible case along with my iPad mini and another book I may be reading. If you are looking for an undistracted reading experience or a Bible fit to use in the pulpit, this one, despite a few drawbacks, satisfies those needs nicely.

On a final note, the $49.99 list price is a bit of a put-off for some people, but I've seen new copies online for anywhere from $20 to $30, which is much more affordable.

I requested a copy of this Bible from Zondervan for the purpose of providing this review.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Have you read your church's statement of faith? A book recommendation for you!

Know the Creeds and Councils (KNOW Series). By Justin S. Holcomb. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. pp. 183. 2014. (List Price $12.99 Paperback | $5.99 Kindle)

Christianity did not begin with our Christian experience. We know this intuitively, but apart from a few modern books, our pastors and small group leaders, and a few of the elderly people in church, most Christians don't look back at the lives and beliefs of Christians who came before them. Not many care to look at their local church's statement of faith unless it's up for an amendment at the annual business meeting, much less the creeds and confessions of believers who lived hundreds or almost thousands of years ago. C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, saw this as a debilitating myopia. We must understand and learn from the past if we hope to understand our times, our beliefs, and set plans for our future.

This book from Justin Holcomb functions like a telescope to connect us who live in the here and now with the beliefs and teachings of Christians who came before us, as well as their impact on our churches today. This telescope will not bring into view the details of all the creeds and confessions. Such a work would be much thicker and much more intimidating to those who've never studied (or cared to study) Church history. But what it does is guide readers to see just beyond the horizon, to view things invisible to the naked eye, and to realize that the universe is bigger than we imagined.

Although I come from a church tradition that routinely touts the phrase "No creed but the Bible" (which is itself a creed), I realize that knowledge of the creeds and councils is necessary for understanding my own beliefs, the beliefs of my church, and the beliefs of others around me. In a way, this book can help people realize that they view the world and understand the Bible through a certain framework. Hopefully, it will inspire them to determine their own convictions regarding the Bible's teachings and better distinguish truth from error. It's an excellent book, particularly for those who haven't given much thought to their own church's statement of faith.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.