Saturday, November 29, 2014

Preaching by ear?

The idea of developing an “orally-based model of preaching” intrigued me enough to pick up Preaching by Ear. I’m glad I did. Not because I’m giving up writing out my sermon notes/outline. No, I’ll be hanging on to those, at least for now. Instead, Preaching by Ear did two things well enough to warrant my commendation: it taught me something new, and it made me think.

What turned out to be most helpful to me was not the section describing McClellan’s preaching model. It was the first section, “Preparing the Preacher.” McClellan pulls from the writings of Augustine, Aristotle, and Quintilian, themselves preachers or orators from ancient times, to make the reader to consider just how prepared we are to preach. Preparation is not just a matter of studying a text or consulting the right commentaries. McClellan challenges us, through these men, to assimilate the text into ourselves such that we are able to “speak God’s truth from the inside out.” Without a doubt this section was my favorite part of the book.

The second part of the book describes McClellan’s preaching method. Early on he says that preaching by ear is “speaking from personally held, deep convictions in a way that enables our words to unfold in the moment by considering the actual people present with us. We are well prepared, but we’re not certain exactly how it will come out of our mouths.” This might seem geared towards people who are either natural public speakers, but I believe his method has some weight to it. All preachers, regardless of whether they plan to follow McClellan’s method exactly, will certainly find themselves learning from and agreeing with much of what he says.

I requested this book from the publisher for the purpose of providing a review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My daughter's new squirrel book

My  3-year-old daughter loves squirrels. She refers to the Ice Age movie we own as “The Squirrel Movie” because of the “sabre-toothed squirrel” who’s always trying to get an acorn—with about the same success rate as Wile E. Coyote in his pursuit of the roadrunner. Now she refers to Alby’s Amazing Book as “the squirrel book.”

The book, written and illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, tells about a squirrel named Alby who enjoys reading because he imagines himself in the stories. His favorite book has stories about giants, and great rescues, and the best part is they’re all true! Of course, Alby’s favorite book is the Bible. The book doesn’t tell you explicitly which stories Alby’s referring to, but the illustrations are fairly obvious, and my daughter was able to point most of them out.

Echeverri is a talented illustrator, and the cartoonish drawings were sufficient to capture my child’s attention. Many of the pictures incorporate the text of Scripture in the background, and for people who care to scrutinize closely, the words align with the passages that the illustrations come from. The text is usually easy to read, but at least one page has black text on a dark blue background. Another book from this publisher, The Christmas Promise, had the same problem, so I hope they can correct it in future printings and offerings.

The book aims to instill in children an appreciation for the Bible, something that needs to be developed as they grow older so they learn it is more than a collection of true stories. It’s a first step in that process, one that parents should be involved in from an early age.

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reading and memorizing Scripture with my daughter

This week we moved my daughter Abigail (3) into a twin bed and my son Lukas (1.5) into a toddler bed. This might seem a little young compared to others’ kids, but our children handled the transition well. I’ve also started reading to my daughter before bed from a five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year Bible book that actually uses Scripture. This book has a memory verse each week, so Abby and I practice it each night, usually with me saying the first word from a line and having her finish the rest. Based on our progress so far, I think she’ll actually have it memorized within the five days.

My mother used this same book with me when I was a kid, although I don’t remember memorizing the verses. I’m sure she worked on them with me. Now that I get to do it too, I’m hopeful that the experience will open her up to the truth of the Bible and familiarize her with its contents. Personally, I’m glad to be able to provide this kind of spiritual leadership to my daughter. She already sees me pray and read my Bible. Doing those things with her communicates something to her that merely observing me doesn’t. It shows love. It shows that Daddy truly values this book over all other books.

When I was a kid, Scripture memory was part and parcel to my Church experience. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve strayed away from it. Getting back into the habit is good, and doing it with my daughter makes it even more fun.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Christmas Promise: A promising children's book

I imagine that when a book publisher breaks ground in a new market, they have to really make a splash. With The Good Book Company’s foray into children’s books, they don’t settle for the kiddie pool, they go straight for the deep end. This is some high quality children’s literature.

The narrative tells of God’s promised King. He would be a NEW KING, a RESCUING KING, a FOREVER KING. As the story is told, each of these aspects comes into focus, and once the story is done, the three characteristics are reviewed, helping the concept stick for little readers. The author also includes a big WHOOSH! every time an angel appears, giving moms and dads a chance to involve the kids:

Dad: “The Christmas story starts with an angel…” [looks expectantly at child]
Child: “WHOOSH!” [hands go up. big smiles]

Of course, the real attention grabber for little ones is the illustrations. Catalina Echeverri’s drawings are cartoonish and fun, from the dazzlingly bright angels, to the buck-toothed donkey, to the winking wise man. My three-year-old daughter looked through the book after I read it to her, commenting on the pictures and partially retelling the story like I had read to her. The pictures draw her in even when Daddy’s not reading it. Even though the book has a suggested age range of 3 to 6, my fidgety one and a half-year-old son will sit still long enough for me to read it through all the way.

The only real drawback to this book is that a few pages have black text on a dark blue background, making reading a little difficult in away from a nearby light source. Perhaps in future editions they’ll alternate font colors or add a contrasting shadow to make the letters stand out more.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of providing a review. I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You. Me. Everyone's a Theologian.

Everyone’s a Theologian impresses me. There are few books on systematic theology that are written at a level that most everyone can understand, and fewer still that are written in such a way as to not alienate everyone who comes from a different faith background. I could see myself, as a Baptist, using this book written by a Presbyterian in a small group discipleship class. I could also see that same class actually reading it.

If the word wasn’t so loaded, I’d almost describe the book as “ecumenical.” Sproul is able to articulate just enough about baptism, the Lord’s supper, and other hotly-debated topics to be useful, but stops short of debating the mode of baptism or the proper recipients of the Lord’s supper. Some may find this to be a weakness, but I believe it allows for greater flexibility for readers and small group leaders to delve more deeply into the subjects.

The book averages 5.6 pages per chapter which makes the reading go by quickly. Even with eight sections and sixty chapters, the book doesn’t seem long, and its usefulness for study with small groups or as a daily devotional is readily apparent.

If I were to offer one criticism of the book, it would be Sproul’s penchant for Latin phraseology. I realize he’s a well-educated man and the Latin is the language of theology, but it’s a little too academic for a book that’s aimed at everyone and could discourage the average person who’s just flipping through the pages to get a feel for the book before committing to buy it. This little quibble aside, I highly recommend it.

I received this audiobook for the purposes of review from christianaudio.