Book Reviews

How will the world end by RinneHow will the world end? is a question people have been asking since before Jesus walked the earth. Answering this question has been the focus of many books and movies throughout the years. Who can resist a good end-of-the-world thriller like Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow or The Terminator? These movies all give a variation of how the world might come to an end.

What is interesting about these movies is not their differences, as to what threatens mankind’s existence, but their similarity, in that mankind always triumphs over its seemingly impending demise. But when the end of the world does come will man really escape and live to see another day the way they knew life before? Is there a Christian take on the end of the world? Seeking to answer these questions and more, Jeramie Rinne has written How will the world end? And other questions about the last things and the second coming of Christ. As part of the Questions Christians Ask series from The Good Book Company, this is a mini-primer of sorts on Christian eschatology.

The chapters are written in order to answer six basic questions about the end times: (1) how will the world end?, (2) what will happen before Jesus comes back?,  (3) how will Jesus come back?, (4) will Jesus come back before or after the “Millennium”?, (5) what happens after Jesus comes back?, and (6) how should we live until Jesus comes back? Throughout the book are some short asides addressing some further questions like the nature of the antichrist and the rapture.

As a primer, the book aims to help Christians see the big picture the Bible presents about the end times before getting hung up on some of the finer details. Contrary to how Hollywood presents end-of-the-world movies, Rinne points out that the end of the world will not come about as the result of asteroids, aliens or bad environmental practices and neither will mankind be able to overcome its judgment. No, the end of the world will come about from a lamb – the Lamb of God, which is Christ Himself. Taking his que from Revelation 6:12-17, Rinne shows how it is the revealing of the Lamb that precipitates the end of the world. Far from presenting Jesus as tame, meek and mild, Revelation 6 describes the revealing of the Lamb as “the great day of the wrath of the lamb.” (vs. 17)

The primary passages Rinne answers the questions from are Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, 19 & 20 while also addressing issues in 1 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter and 1 John. While Rinne has a slew of New Testament references he only points to two Old Testament references: Isaiah 34 (14) and Daniel 7 & 12 (70-71). This shines light on the only weakness of the book. I think if there were more OT references then it would have given readers a chance to seen more continuity between the Testaments on the end times.

This one criticism aside, How will the world end? is a great mini-primer on Christian eschatology for the inquiring Christian looking to get their feet wet on the subject of eschatology. This is a great lead in book for small groups on eschatology from which more in-depth discussion can emerge. It would also serve well an unbeliever who has questions about Christianities understanding of the end times. This is a great book to have on hand for quick use.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Media for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1 Samuel For You by ChesterThe Good Book Company continues its devotional/commentary series, God’s Word For You, with 1 Samuel For You by Tim Chester. This series of books follows a threefold pattern: first, a person can read the book for greater insight into a book of the bible; second, reading the book allows the reader to be fed by applying the text to life and third, it gives you guidance to lead others through the book of the Bible for greater understanding and growth.

The book of Samuel is a transitional book from the depressing and defeating days of the judges to the beginning of the kings of Israel through the rise and fall of Saul and his replacement David. 1 Samuel is also a narrative/historical book which gives an account of part of the history of Israel. Tim Chester likes to refer to it as “preached history” because it does more than just give an account of the history of Israel. Through the accounting of history “we are being shown who God is and how he rules his people; and we are being shown Jesus, his Christ.” (9)

Like with all narrative, in order to extract the theology of the text one must be willing to do some digging in the text that is beyond just a surface reading. When you begin to examine the Hebrew language and the literary elements of the narrative, the text and story begin to come alive. This is one thing that Chester does so well. He picks up on the nuances and details of the text just enough to bring the text to life without drowning the reader with too much information in too short a space. For instance, Chester picks up on the theme of barrenness with Hannah that has been preceded by Rachel, Sarah and others (12-13), the judgment irony of the kings of Israel that looks back to the time of the Judges (66), Saul as a type of Adam instead of a true redeemer-king (87) and of course the forward-pointing focus on Christ that runs from beginning to end.

As with all of the books in the God’s Word For You series, 1 Samuel For You is exactly the kind of book that gets you right to the heart of the text by getting you into the text without overwhelming you with it. Like John Stott, Tim Chester writes with his own unique style that is engaging and penetrating. 1 Samuel For You should be on the book shelf of every Christian.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Media for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Job by Chris AshIf you search for “suffering” on Amazon in the books section you will find almost 11,800 results. If you search for “help for suffering” on Google there are 151 million entries to choose from. Indeed the world is a place full of suffering people looking for help. You cannot read more than four chapters into the book of Genesis without encountering suffering in the lives of the first two people God created and the first family they made. In reading through the pages of Scripture one encounters suffering at almost every turn. Ironically, it is Job, the oldest book in the Bible, which solely addresses the subject of suffering and how god relates to it and the sufferer.

Tackling this rich, long and sometimes puzzling book, Christopher Ash has written Job: The Wisdom of the Cross. This is the most recent installment in the Preaching the Word commentary series edited by R. Kent Hughes. Staying true to the series, Ash writes from the heart of a pastor as he seeks to show the reader the glory of God in Christ through suffering in the life of Job.

Job, Ash argues, is a book that reveals to us what kind of world we live in – a world full of suffering, and much of it is seemingly pointless. But Ash wants to focus the reader on a smaller aspect of the world – the church. In Job we see a man who endures all the suffering a person could imagine. In his friends we see responses that are detached from the reality of suffering and the God who has the answer to our suffering. Ash states, “The book of Job will force us to ask what kind of church we belong to” (19). This examination takes a look at the prosperity and therapeutic gospel. Both of these gospels are fake and threaten the church constantly. To Ash, Job is a corrective to these false gospels and outlooks on life before they gained their contemporary popularity.

The answer to these two false gospels is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While Job was a blameless man, he was not perfect. Concerning the foreshadowing of Christ in Job, Ash says that

The book ultimately makes no sense without the obedience of Jesus Christ, his obedience to death on a cross. Job is not everyman; he is not even every believer. There is something desperately extreme about Job. He foreshadows one man whose greatness exceeded even Job’s, whose suffering took him deeper than Job, and whose perfect obedience to his Father was only anticipated in faint outline by Job. The universe needed one man who would lovingly and perfectly obey his heavenly Father in the entirety of his life and death, by whose obedience the many would be made righteous (Rom. 5:19). (21)

Woven throughout the book, Ash demonstrates how the book of Job destroys the false message of the prosperity and therapeutic gospels and points us to Jesus as the true Savior. For example, in Job chapter three we see the brokenness of Job as he tries to articulate his response to his great loss. Job is in a dark place and so was Jesus when He hung on the cross and said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (84). Though Job was a blameless man who greatly suffered, Jesus was a sinless man who suffered even greater because His suffering was wholly unjust.

But while Job addresses the subject of suffering, it is not primarily about suffering. Ash constantly points the reader to God who is in control of the suffering, who reveals Himself in the suffering and who carries Job through the suffering. Because Job is about God, it is about Jesus. Ash states,

Job is passionately and profoundly about Jesus, whom Job foreshadows both in his blamelesness and in his perseverance through undeserved suffering. As the blameless believer par excellence, Jesus fulfills Job. As a priestly figure who offers sacrifices for his children at the start and his friends at the end, Job foreshadows Jesus the great High Priest. (436).

Job: The Wisdom of the Cross is a wonderful and compelling commentary on Job. Ash ably explains the text, is attentive to the difficult issues it can present and faithfully presents the book as focusing on God and foreshadowing Christ. Ash has a gift of making a difficult book much easier to understand. This is a commentary on Job that every pastor should have in his library and any Christian should read for their personal Bible study.

I received this book for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Chinas Reforming ChurchesIt is no secret that Christianity in China is growing. In a country that has been historically hostile to religious diversity, Christianity has been growing and making a mark on the whole of Chinese life. One of the factors that accounts for this growth is the infusion of Protestant missionaries from various denominational affiliations. What might come as a surprise to many is the growing and well documented influence of conservative Reformed missionary influence in various ways throughout China.

Through the efforts of a number of Reformed leaders who are involved in the spread of Reformed polity and theology in China, Bruce P. Baugus, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, has edited China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom. The contributors to this book include pastors, theologians and Chinese-Americans who believe that Reformed polity and theology possess what is necessary to sustain the future growth of the church in China.

China’s Reforming Churches provides a sketch of the history of the conservative Reformed missionary influence in China since the late 1800’s, an assessment of the present state of Christianity in China in general and the Reformed church specifically, and charts a vision for the future of Reformed missionary work in China. Additionally, this book provides theological justification for why the contributors believe that Reformed polity and theology are what Chinese churches needs in order to be grounded in the gospel so as to create a sustainable future for Christianity to grow in China.


The book is divided into four sections. The first section outlines the history of Reformed churches in China. The history of Protestant missions to China begins with Robert Morrison in 1807 who was also a member of the Presbyterian church (29). Since that time there has been a steady flow of Reformed theological influence through missionary presence in China. Not long after Morrison came John L. Nevius who is perhaps the most famous and influential Presbyterian missionary to China. He is credited with introducing the idea of planting churches that are self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating (41). This is a development that still carries today among missionaries across denominational lines. What many readers, who are unfamiliar with Reformed missionary influence in China, will find interesting is the who’s-who of Reformed theologians who were actively involved in mission work in China directly or who played a major role in training Chinese nationals for missionary work. John L. Nevius and Walter M. Lowrie both studied under Charles Hodge (38, 45), J. Gresham Machen helped found the Independent Board of Foreign Missions from which Richard B. Gaffin would later be sent to do work in Qindgao(54) and Geerhardus Vos was the president of Yingkou Bible Institute in Yingkou, Liaoning (55).

Section two provides an assessment of the state of Presbyterianism in China today. Chapter four provides a fascinating look at the four narratives that outside observers tend to view the Chinese church.

  1. Persecuted Church – This view sees Christianity in China as always under persecution from political forces of China. However, this view has not been able to unshackle itself from China’s past dealings with religious diversity. Brent Fulton says that “it is not illegal to be a Christian in China,” and that “most Christians in China do not face daily persecution” (100).
  2. Needy Church – This view sees Christianity in China “as lacking Bibles, trained leaders, facilities, and finances” (100). What is more realistic is that as long as Christians both in and outside China have an unhealthy dependence on Western Christianity for the sustainability of the Chinese church then it’s needy perception will become a reality.
  3. Christian China – This view thinks that since China has more Christians than any other country that it will bring about cultural transformation such that China will become publicly Christian. This is not true since there is not a direct linear relationship to Christian growth and cultural change (101).
  4. Missionary Church – This view sees “China as potentially the greatest missionary-sending country in history” (102). Of the four narratives this might be the most exaggerated as there are not near as many Chinese missionaries going out of China and most of them that do leave do not stay for long.

As the contemporary Chinese Christian scene is laid out in the book, American Christians will be surprised to see that the situation is much like it is in the states: Christian leaders and laypeople are continually encouraging other Christians towards and warning them of the same things that dominate the Western church discussion. Brent Fulton notes that, despite the striking similarities, what separates the Chinese and American churches is that China “has experienced in thirty years what in most other nations has taken place over a century or more” (115).

Section three addresses the social and religious challenges in China for the growth of Christianity (Presbyterianism specifically) and what opportunities lie ahead as a result. While examining the social conditions, G. Wright Doyle notes that the fast paced change in China’s society is creating new problems for the Chinese but also providing new inroads for the spread of the gospel. For instance, China has always been known for having a strong committed family structure but this is changing. Husbands are taking jobs farther and farther away from home and the men are finding mistresses away from home. This, coupled China’s one-child policy, is wrecking havoc on Chinese families (160-61). Also, though more and more money is coming into China, the gap between the poor and wealthy is increasing causing discontent among the people (164-65). In addressing the opportunities these and other challenges bring to Christianity in China, David VanDrunen charts our a vision for the interplay between Reformed ecclesiology and Christians engagement in society as drawn from his book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture.

The final section deals with appropriating the Reformed tradition in China through legal publishing, theological education and the indigenization and contextualization. For publishing, it will come as a surprise to many Westerners that within the last ten years it has  become legal to publish limited types of Christian literature in mainland China (245). Phil Remmers lays out the highly controlled and expensive process (upwards of $20,000) it takes to have a book published in China. Remmers notes the pros and cons of unregistered underground Christian publishers and has some surprising thoughtful comments on the potential drawbacks of free digital literature available to Chinese Christians as made possible through ministries like Desiring God (264-66).  As far as theological education goes, China has a cultural history of valuing education that can benefit Christian education. What is challenging are the restrictions on seminaries that are not so with churches. There are other issues such as funding for the schools, limited resources and good faculty. There is much room for growth among Reformed seminaries and the future looks bright.


China’s Reforming Churches is a fascinating look at the past, present and future of Reformed missionary influence in China. The contributors show a familiarity with Christianity in China in general and the Reformed tradition specifically, and are knowledgeable about the current Chinese social factors and movements that Christians face. Those unfamiliar with the current state of Christianity in China will find a lot of helpful information and will be surprised by many things like the real issue concerning Christian persecution and the rise of Christian publication.

Though the title does not immediately give it away, this book is written from a decidedly Reformed perspective. All theological and practical (ecclesiological) evaluations and suggestions stem from this perspective. While this does not effect cultural and societal observation (at least in my mind) it does limit the scope for how to move forward in regards to theology and polity. I think there is definitely some overlap that would occur no matter what denominational stream the book was written in. What would be noticeably different is the suggested structure of polity. This limited scope of the book is in no way a fault of the book nor does it detract from its value for those committed to other denominations. This books will serve as a great benefit to any Christian interested in the current state of missions in China and will provide invaluable information for those invested in Chinese missions from both sides.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Interpreting the General Letters by BatemanUnder the editorial leadership of John D. Harvey, Herbert W. Bateman IV has written Interpreting the General Epistles: An Exegetical Handbook as part of the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis. This series seeks to provide the student of the New Testament with the basic background information such as authorship, historical background, literary context, theological context and interpretive guidance such as how to exegete and communicate the meaning of a text.

General Observations

The first chapter address the genre of the general epistles as letters (Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John and Jude). Through comparative studies with that of other contemporary letters to the NT, Bateman provides a skeletal picture of how letters were structured and functioned. Of particular interest is the issue of pseudonymity whereby the person who actually writes the letter with their own hand is not the one who provides the content of the letter. This is of great interest and contention for biblical critics and historians like Bart Ehrman who dismisses most of the NT letters as fakes over this issue. In the span of five pages Bateman ably defends its use by the general epistles authors showing the charge of the critics to be unwarranted.

In the second chapter Bateman provides the reader with good analysis and conclusions concerning the historical background to the general letters and how it shapes the writing of the books and how we are to interpret them. For instance, James writes against the backdrop of the Disporai. Much of James deals with wisdom and how the Jews were to live wisely during this time. After comparing the relevant extra canonical wisdom literature Bateman concludes that

James emphasizes the values and ethos of God’s kingdom community over which Jesus reigns as Messiah in order to socially orient the Jewish Disporia community in ways that distinguished them from others and encouraged tranquility” (79).

Further, for Peter we see a significant emphasis on household codes of conduct. Looking at the Roman literature on the home Bateman comments that “the Romans believed that disorder was a threat not only to the Greco-Roman family but also to the Greco-Roman society” (81).  So how does Peter make a distinguishing mark with his household codes? Bateman concludes the following concerning wives and slaves:

Using the same categories of those shaped in a predominately Greco-Roman culture in the geographical areas like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1), Peter engaged his Greco_Roman culture in ways that both adopted and yet amended the household ethic for wives and slaved in order to transform culture” (83).

Essentially, Peter “elevated” the status and role of women and slaves within the Christians worldview.

The next chapter deals with the theology of the general epistles in which Bateman focuses on the biblical theology of the books. The aim is to show (1) what theology the letters have themselves and (2) how they fit into and “contribute to the canonical whole” (90). This is accomplished by first establishing an overview of the whole biblical story-line from creation to new creation. Next the biblical covenants are outlined with discussion on how they drive much of the Bible’s development and historical fulfillment. Coming to the NT we are faced with the era of fulfillment or “inaugurated fulfillment”. ” The authors of the General Letters present God’s kingdom-redemption program as having been initiated by God in the historical events of Jesus (Heb. 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20) and later consummated at the subsequent return of Jesus (James 5:7-8:2; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:2, cf. Jude 20)” (103). The kingdom has been inaugurated with the first coming of Christ (104) but there is a future physical establishing of the kingdom on earth during the millennium at the second coming of Christ (113-16). While clearly premillennial, Bateman avoids discussion of the rapture.

Chapters four through six contain the nine step process for interpreting the general letters. The nine step process is summarized as follows:

  1. Initiate a Translation – The goal here is for the interpreter to make their own translation of an isolated text. This is accomplished by diagramming the text according to grammatical function, understanding the placing and function of the verbs and then translating the text.
  2. Identify Interpretive Issues – The various helps to accomplishing this task include a knowledge of the various translations and their philosophies and  understanding textual families. The role of open-ended statements, Greek idioms and English sensitivities are discussed as well.
  3. Isolate Major Textual Problems – The central issue here surrounds manuscript variants. Guidelines are given for isolating textual problems, how to interpret the apparatus in Greek texts, weighing internal and external manuscript evidence. Entry and advanced level advice is given for how to evaluate the evidence.
  4. Interpreting Structures – This deals with how to identify and present the structural outline of a text. This is used to visualize the author’s flow of thought at the clause level (independent and independent clauses).
  5. Interpreting Style, Syntax, and Semantics – Here, Bateman examines the style of Hebrews, syntax of the Johannine letters and the semantics of Peter as examples of how to do the same for the other general letters.
  6. Interpreting Greek Words – Since the same word can have a variety of meanings, the interpreter needs to determine which one the author meant in a given context. Here synonyms, extra biblical usage, LXX usage and the semantic range of a word are discussed in order to determine an authors intended meaning for a given word.
  7. Communicating Exegetically – Here the exegete takes their translated diagram of the text and begins to turn each statement/clause into summary statements. This starts with summaries of each clause and ends with an exegetical outline.
  8. Communicating the Central Idea – The goal here is to further refine the exegetical outline into a single statement that summarizes the whole text under consideration.
  9. Communicating Homiletically – With 3 John as a test case, Bateman provides the reader with an example of a homiletical outline that is based on the exegetical outline.

With the nine step process in place, Bateman shows how it is to be used on two sample texts (Jude 5-7 & Hebrews 10:19-25). After wading through a lot of detail on each step some readers may be overwhelmed with everything there is to do in the process of interpreting a passage. The two samples really go a long way to putting it all into perspective and I feel they eliminate much of the anxiety some will feel as they consider the exegetical task. No doubt it is daunting but with continual practice the process with become more natural and less cumbersome. Chapter eight finishes off the book with a list of helpful resources for further study on all of the chapter topics, the nine steps and a list of helpful commentaries for each book.


As a handbook, Interpreting the General Letters definitely hits the mark. The quality work and high standard set by John Harvey in the inaugural Interpreting the Pauline Letters is no doubt continued here. This is a must have for graduate level study and should be in every pastor and teachers library for reference. Bateman shows himself to be well acquainted with the material and his explanation and exemplary use of the nine step process will serve readers well. This book deserves a wide audience and a long shelf life.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pic of Great Kings of the Bible by RajuSome of the most riveting and engaging historical narratives in the Old Testament are the accounts of the lives of king Saul, David and Solomon. Their lives are a mix of heroism, tragedy, accomplishments and great loss. Israel wanted a king to rule them like the other nations and they got what they asked for and more.

In a colorful, biblically faithful and Christ centered book, Deepak Raju traces the lives of the three kings of Israel in Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus is greater than Saul, David and Solomon. Raju is the pastor of counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever is senior pastor. He received his theological training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves on the board of directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Written for children between 5-11, Raju captures the central story line of each king with accompanying full page color pictures that grasp the focus of each event in the kings life. Raju does not sugar coat the lives of the kings but shows them in all of their glory and disgrace. This is all done to highlight the central character in the book – Jesus Christ the true and better king!

Throughout the book Raju shows time and time again how, despite the failures of the kings of Israel, there is a king coming who is better in every way. This king is Jesus. Though Saul disobeyed the Lord and rejected Samuel, Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father. Though David lied, stole, murdered and committed adultery, Jesus did not murder but used His power to protect the weak and raise the dead to life. Though Solomon acted like a fool, despite his great wisdom, and gave his heart away to idols and false gods, Jesus was perfectly wise in all He did. Though all of the kings of Israel died in sin, Jesus died for their sins and rose again that they might have life apart from the punishment for their sins.

Great Kings of the Bible is a great book to read again and again. Your kids will want to read it for nights on end. This is a great reading tool to teach young children the lives of the kings of Israel and how Jesus is a better king.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus for Kids for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pic of Titus fro you by ChesterTitus is the third of the Pastoral Epistles written by Paul. It is the shortest of the three but is packed with lots of doctrinal and practical content. According to Tim Chester, in Titus Paul “is giving us a vision of a life that touches people in small but decisive ways – a life that has eternal consequences. He is setting out the truly good life” (9).

Tim Chester unpacks how Paul presents this message to Titus in Titus For You which is part of the God’s Word For You series from The Good Book Company. This series of devotional commentaries is designed to aid Christians in reading the biblical text either just as a book, as a devotional or as a group discussion guide.

As a devotional commentary, Titus For You is designed to all Christians to learn more about the book of Titus through personal devotions or in a group setting. The chapters are broken into two parts and there are discussion questions at the end of each section. When words are used, like sovereignty, that might be more unfamiliar to readers they are placed in bold lettering indicating that a short definition or brief description is given at the end of the book.

In Titus For You, Tim Chester unpacks this powerful message from Paul, a mature Christian, to Titus, a pastor left in Crete who is charged with identifying and training leaders for the church there. At the heart of all that Paul instruction Titus to do is how the gospel shapes church leadership. Chester tackles topics like the sovereignty of God in salvation and evangelism (16-18), discipleship (29-42), legalism vs grace (54-56) and the function of structures within the church (12, 29).

Titus For You is a must have for any Christian or small group studying the book of Titus. The God’s Word For You series is a must use for churches and something churches should encourage their members to use for personal Bible study.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pic of Comm on Judges and Ruth by ChisholmAs of late, commentaries on Judges and Ruth have been sparse especially when it comes to exegetical work. Judges is an important book theologically and historically for the life of Israel and the reader who continues onto Ruth is given a glimmer of hope after the depressing events in Judges. What are we to learn from the failure of Israel in Judges and what hope does Ruth bring us?

Dr. Robert Chisholm Jr. answers these questions and more in A Commentary on Judges and Ruth in the Kregel Exegetical Library commentary series. The objective of this commentary series is to provide the reader with the cultural background of the text, give a detailed exegetical treatment of the passage with thematic analysis and to give direction towards the theological implications of the text along with practical application.


In regards to Judges, Chisholm tackles a number of hot topics within the book. Regarding the literary structure of the book Chisholm prefers to deal with the final form of the book and sees tracing the evolution of its literary history as a fool’s errand (15, 55). The chronology and date of Judges is worked out over the course of twenty pages and Chisholm takes the late date of 1260 for the Exodus and concludes that the date for Judges is inconclusive (56). For Deborah’s role as a judge, Chisholm takes the conservative view that the text indicates that her presence is odd which is born out through the texts “word choice and syntax” (223). In regards to the tests Gideon gives the Lord with the dew and wool fleece (Judges 6:36-40) Chisholm’s opinion is that “Geiden’s choice if signs was not arbitrary or random” (278). “The tests were designed to demonstrate the Lord’s control of the dew,” says Chisholm (278). Chisholm believes that the text leaves the event open to interpretation but those who side against Gideon on this encounter with the Lords might not be convinced.


Amidst the depressing events in the book of Judges Ruth is a shining example of the faithfulness of God to His people despite the vast unfaithfulness of many of the Israelites. It is within the life of two women, Naomi and Ruth, and one man Boaz, through whom we see God working among Israel during the time of the Judges. Amid the themes of God’s care for the needy and His faithfulness to His people, Chisholm sees the necessary connection to Christ (566). Chisholm ably explains the tricky Hebrew text concerning Ruth’s sleeping at the feet of Boaz in chapter three (650-53). The conclusion to the message of Ruth is that “God cares for the needy people like Naomi and Ruth; he is their ally in this chaotic world” (682).


As was started with Allen P. Ross’ inaugural commentary on the Psalms, Chisholm’s A Commentary on Judges and Ruth continues in the same tradition as the rest of the Kregel Exegetical Library contributions. For those who are not adept at Hebrew, the breakdown of the text and allocating of the grammatical and literary function of each clause is indispensable. Chisholm has spent a lifetime of scholarly study on these two books and it shows. Along with the exegetical work done, the theological and practical guidance is helpful for the modern reader to see how these ancient books still speak to God’s people today.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Active Spirituality by HedgesChristian theology has many tensions and mysteries including: divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the immanence and transcendence of God and the two natures of Christ as fully God and man. We recognize that we will never fully comprehend these truths that can at times feel contradictory. Alas, we are human and trust in the divine wisdom of our Creator God.

Currently there is a debate among evangelical Christians about the doctrine of sanctification. Books and blog posts have been written in an effort to hone in on the Christian’s active responsibility in their sanctification process. The debate has centered on what the Christian is to do now that they have a new identity in Christ. There is no argument that our salvation is made possible on the basis of Christ’s work for us through His death and resurrection. But for some evangelicals this is where it gets tricky. Does the Christian life require effort? If it does, then are we no longer relying on Christ’s work but rather ours? With a theologians mind and a pastor’s heart, Brian Hedges has jumped into the discussion with his new book Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life. Brian is no stranger to this discussion on sanctification as he previously touched on this topic at greater length in his book Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change. Readers of Active Spirituality who have not read Christ Formed in You will be well served and strengthened in reading both.

The essence of Active Spirituality is to give a biblically faithful presentation of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. As Brian rightly emphasizes throughout the book, this doctrine has balanced emphasis on both the grace of God through the working of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification process and the responsibility of all Christians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). At the beginning of the book Brian notes the emphasis on action in the Christians life

The Christian life is called a walk, a race, a contest, and a fight. We are told to run, to wrestle, to watch, and to stand. And the victors – those who conquer and overcome – receive great promises whereas terrible warnings go to those who grow sluggish and neglect the great salvation secured for us by Jesus. (13)

Hedges wants the reader to see that while God’s grace is certainly at the heart of our growth as Christians, we need to couple that with a serious desire to fulfill the many commands God has given the believer to obey as Christians. Though we are saved by grace and no longer under the Law, we are still under the Law of Christ and Christ has required of His people to live a certain way and work towards obeying His Word.

Active Spirituality is written in a unique style in that each chapter is crafted like a series of correspondences between Brian and a friend seeking spiritual counsel. The friend is fictional and the reader is not provided the content of the letters they might have written. What we are given are the responses by Brian to this person. For Brian though, he has in his mind the lives of those within his congregation that he counseled as well as friends outside of his pastoral ministry. The way the book is set up really helps the point of the book to hit home with the reader. The writing is warm and inviting and his skill as a pastor shines through. Additionally, Hedges knowledge of Scripture and theology are just as strong. He interacts with much helpful literature on the subject such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday’s book The Race Set Before Us.

Active Spirituality packs a powerful punch in a short space. Hedges walks the line between grace and responsibility in the Christian life with care and wisdom. I recommend this book for new Christians and any Christian who is going through a time of great struggle over how to work out the so great a salvation that they have been given in Christ Jesus.

You can also listen to an interview with Brian Hedges about his book on Bible Geek Gone Wild’s author podcast by going here.

I received this book for free from Shepherds Press through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Growing up Gods way - boysHuman sexuality is a good gift from God but from the way many Christians talk about it (if they even talk about it at all) you might think it was a disease spread upon all mankind from Satan himself. Not just one generation back from mine sex was considered to be a non-discussion topic unless you were telling kids not to have it before marriage. This is the generation that raised my generation which is now raising its own generation of kids. Truth be told, our kids will hear about sex and sexuality from somewhere. The question is, who will they hear it from the loudest and most cogently? The world will tell them about it and so must Christian parents.

There is a growing body of literature (that needs to keep growing!) for Christian parents seeking to aid them in their discussions (discussions plural because there needs to be more than one of them!) with their children about their sexuality. Recently, Drs. Chris Richards and Liz Jones have written an amazing pair of new books titled Growing God’s Way for Boys and Growing God’s Way for Girls. Designed for ages 10-14, these Christian pediatricians have teamed up to write a book for parents to help them discuss their kids sexuality with them from before puberty to marriage from a Christian and medical perspective.

Both books follow the same chapter format with one tailored to boys and the other to girls. The first two chapters discuss the bookends of puberty and marriage. These chapters set the stage for further development in the next seven chapters. Chapters three through seven discuss the ways in which a young person’s body changes during puberty: physically, emotionally and relationally. In these chapters everything is covered from zits to sweating, the growth of hair, the menstrual cycle, mood swings and the beginning stages of opposite sex attraction. Chapter eight discusses the various stages of developing a relationship with someone of the opposite sex from dating to marriage. The final chapter concludes with giving practical tips for how young boys and girls can begin now to think about and prepare for their possible future spouses such as living for God where He has you now and saving yourself sexually for your future spouse.

There are several features of these books that make it stand out. First, and most importantly, they are thoroughly grounded in Scripture. Drs. Richards and Jones tie Growing up Gods way - girlseverything from conception to marriage and beyond to what God has to say about it in His Word. God is seen as overseeing our lives and the One who made our bodies and its changes for our good and His glory. Second, while being Biblically based, the books are also very scientific in their descriptions. My wife and I are in agreement that when we discuss our kid’s bodies with them we use proper medical terminology and the authors have done the same in the books. This is a plus! Third, the books are filled with colorful pictures and diagrams to illustrate everything from the difference in boys and girls genitalia to an unborn child growing in a mother’s belly. Literally every page has a picture of some sort. Fourth, the language used in the books is perfect for young readers to grasp if you have them read the books with you or again on their own after you have discussed the material with them. Fifth, because the book is based in Scripture the authors discuss God’s good design for sex within marriage and how to have a Christ honoring relationship with the opposite sex before marriage. The authors also rightly tip their hat to the role of singleness in the life of some people. Finally, many of these changes can be very hard to children to deal with and understand as they happen. Sometimes this can produce frustration and confusion. Throughout the books the authors point out how children can take comfort in knowing that God has designed them to grow in these ways and that they can trust Him as they go through the changes. Puberty is God’s designed way for helping children grow into adults. Each stage has a God designed time and purpose that helps us to fulfill the purposes He has made us for in regards to our sexuality.

I cannot do anything but highly recommend Growing God’s Way for Boys and Growing God’s Way for Girls. This is the kind of book I would want to put into the hand of every parent in my church with young children. I would recommend parents to read through the book with their child first and then if you feel it necessary to allow your child to read through the book on their own with your follow up. Parents need to use this book as a resource in discussing their child’s sexuality with them. It should not be used as an excuse to avoid the uncomfortable conversation by giving it to them and telling them to figure it out on their own. Christian parents need to lead the way in their children’s lives when it comes to everything, especially their sexuality. The world is going to tell them about it so you need to tell them what God says about it. These books are a great place to start!

I received this book for free from Evangelical Press through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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