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Richard M. Hannula adds a nice little work to the “Bitesize Biographies” series published by evangelical press books edited by Michael Haykin. His biography on Samuel Rutherford is the first thing I have read on Rutherford and was a simple and interesting introduction.  It is a widely accessible biography of the 17th century Scotish Presbyterian minister at a beginner level.

 

The Good:

 

This book is short and readable for those who want to learn more about great men of the church yet don’t want to know every last detail.  Coming in at 138 pages it is not a huge commitment.   In the short work though one will gain a greater appreciation for Rutherford and His life and ministry and how that fits into British church history.

I for one was most impressed with his commitment to a small rural church.  He was essentially forced away from it into what others would considered more prestigious positions in the universities.  He was dogmatic about serving the people where God had placed him and would spend long hours walking to visit with the flock God had placed under his leadership where they were often in the fields working.  It is quite admirable the visitation he did and the dedication he had to these people.

We learn of Rutherford’s suffering through death in family and also through political persecution.  Much of what he went through and the lessons learned are so applicable to 21st century Americans.  He lived a life that had its ups and downs but he persevered and died with his hope in Christ alone.

The most interesting chapter to me was on his role at the Westminster assembly.  For those interested in the confession you will enjoy the chapter.  It also was the chapter that most clearly showed Rutherford’s theological distinctives.

Another good part about the book is that while it is overwhelmingly in praise of Rutherford he does mention a couple places where Rutherford was not perfect showing he was a real man and a man of his time.  He mentions the possibility that Rutherford’s first wife was pregnant before they were married (p.24) and also how Rutherford occasionally corresponded  the cause of the Covenanter army with the cause of Christ. (p.110). This is helpful to not present and unrealistic portrait of a man.

 

The Bad

 

I would have loved to see some footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography.  Rutherford and others are quoted widely throughout without any noting where the quotes come from.  For one wanting to study further it will make this book not helpful in that regard.  There is an appendix with recommended further reading but no sources given for where the material in book came from.  Having not read many short biographies like this I am unsure if this is commonplace or not, but I would hope not.  There is also no note of where the picture on front cover comes from which I would be interested to know what where it is.

As it is a “bitesize Biography” I understand that not everything can be included but I do wish that more of Rutherford’s theology and how he got there was included because that seems helpful in understanding the positions he took and life he lived.

Also not really bad but unless familiar with Scottish Presbyterian lingo you will need to look up several words along the way.  For instance many Americans may not have a clue what a Kirk is.  I believe Kirk is just the Scottish way of saying church.

If interested in the man, the time, or Westminster divines or related subjects you will enjoy this short read.

Samuel Rutherford: by Richard M. Hannula in Bitesize Biographies series

Edited by Michael Haykin

Publisher: EP (evangelical press)

Year: 2014

Boards: Paperback

Binding: glue

Pages: 140

Index: none

Recommended Reading : Yes

 

 

My two and half year old daughter quite enjoyed this book so based upon that I would give it 5 stars but as a father I need to be more discerning that just whatever my children enjoy. I have a 2 year and a 4 month old daughters so I am on the look for solid christian books especially for very young at this time. This book would definitely be suitable for 2-3 year olds to have read to them. I was very excited to see that the good book co. was starting a childrens book line and look forward to seeing what else they come out with. So here are my thoughts on “Alby’s Amazing Book” by Catalina Echeverri.

The good:

The illustrations are great, very colorful and great for the kids but also have a lot of details to be appreciated by all. They include text of the scripture in the pictures which are the bible story shown in the picture which was a neat aspect. I much enjoyed the illustrations as well as my daughter. Also I was pleased that there were no images of Jesus Christ.  I am not sure if this will continue with the Good book Co. children’s literature but it was nice for one who believes 2nd commandment doesn’t allow for images of Christ.

The book shows the importance of the scriptures and that it is not just a boring book, but full of great stories of God working in this world. This hopefully will encourage children to want to read the bible more with their parents and long to learn those stories.

The text is short and and easily keeps the attention of very young children.  There are not a lot of good christian books that are aimed at children 2 and under like this so it is much needed.

Concerns:

The book implies that the bible is a love letter to an individual in this case Alby.  While the bible speaks to individuals and their needs, it should be read looking for Christ and what God has done for us through Him primarily and as a book for the church.  This is somewhat nit picking because the book does show importance of scripture which is admirable, but Good Book Co. could improve as they produce more.

The text on some pages was very difficult to read because it is so small and the color of text blended into the illustration.  This made it difficult to read to my daughter and show her pictures at same time.

While the illustrations were great the picture of Adam and Eve was one like I had not seen before.  While the image was not unbilical it might have benefited from increased leafs.

 

Keep and eye on Good Book Co. childrens imprint and hopefully we will more great illustrations from  Catalina Echeverri.

 

 

This book was provided from the publisher in exchange for review which was not required to be positive.

This is the place I believe to begin reading John Owen.  For those interested in reading Owen there are several edited works of his by Banner of Truth publishing and crossway publishing but I would still recommend starting here with Ryan McGraw’s “Foundations of Communion With God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen”.  You will not have read an entire John Owen book, but you will be introduced to the man and get 41 golden nuggets of readings from his works.

 

The book contains and introduction bio on Owen that is really and simple yet highly interesting read.  Then you have 41 readings divided into 3 sections; 1. Knowing God as Triune, 2: Heavenly Mindedness and Apostasy 3. Covenant and church.  The book then ends with some appendixes dealing with reading John Owen.  It comes in at just 147 pages, which makes this book so accessible for many who would never read Owen otherwise.

 

The Good:

The book is divided into 41 short readings in addition to the bio.  This makes it very readable.  I would recommend reading one chapter a day and maybe more than once.  There is so much to chew on in just a couple of pages of Owen which is about the size of each chapter, so one could read and think deeply about it.

The book also shows a lot of what Owen had to say on public worship of the Triune God.  I had heard quite a bit about Owen on killing sin but to read him on the ordinary means of grace was especially encouraging.  This book will encourage you to kill sin and commune with the triune God through due use of the ordinary means of grace.  It will encourage you as you struggle through waking up early and trying to get kids ready for church each Lord’s Day as you are reminded of who you worship and the benefits of it.

This book will likely cause you to want to read more Owen and thankful the Editor has a nice appendix with helpful tips on reading Owen which includes recommend places to start and progress.

 

The Bad:

Owen is hard to read! This is no surprise to those who have attempted to read the man.  The book makes him accessible to  many but I found myself still having to stop and go back and reread as I lost track.  This does not mean the material was less than rich but it must be worked for.

 

I really enjoyed this book and getting to take in more Owen on a variety of subjects.  I also found of great interest the bio and the relation of Owen to Goodwin and others that I had not realized.   I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in John Owen.

 

Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books

Series: Profiles In Reformed Spirituality

Year: 2014

Pages: 147

Boards: Paperback

Binding: glue

Footnotes or endnotes: footnotes

Subject index: no

scripture index: no

person index: no

WTSBooks: $9.00

Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8

This is a short devotional read on Psalms 1-8 written by a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a professor at Westminster Seminary California. I typically don’t read devotional literature like this as much as more strictly theological works, but this book will not let down those lovers of deep theology. While it caused this reader to think and rejoice more deeply about Christ it did not do so by bypassing the theological nature of the texts. Many doctrines are dealt with along the way for the benefit of the reader such as union with Christ, imputed righteousness, justification, and more. Ultimately you will learn how David points forward to Christ and how all of the Psalms point to Christ as well as seeing the structure of the Psalms and how they relate.

This book is more on the devotional level as mention but also is provocative yet biblical and true. While many have their favorite Psalms or parts of Psalms he doesn’t shy away from dealing with the tough parts of the Psalms. Issues like praying for God to defeat our enemies and the question of does God hear the prayers of unbelievers are dealt with head on. The work is also convicting and comforting. We are shown that God searches the heart and mind, not just outward appearance which is a scary thought. The reader will be pushed to strive for holiness and run to the cross for grace.

Who might want to read this book. Anyone looking for good devotional literature that is theologically sound on Psalms 1-8 will find this book helpful. It could also be used well reading through with another using the study question provided at the end of each chapter. As the book comes in at a total of 123 pages and written in simple fashion it will be accessible to most.
An unique feature to the book that may encourage you to pick it up is that each chapter includes a metrical psalm at the end and tells of internet resources where audio files are to help you sing them. This will be helpful to many who have not sung the psalms before, which I assume is a large majority.

The only critique I have of the book is that each chapter doesn’t contain the full text of the Psalm at the beginning. A small section is usually given where I believe it would have been helpful to include the text of the Psalm at the beginning of each chapter.

The Physical book is great for a paperback. The cover is beautiful yet simple. This will look nice on your shelf as far a paperback can. I can picture a series of books with similar covers looking very nice if J.V. Fesko were to write on more of the Psalms. The texture of the cover feels very nice in the hand as well as it is not a high gloss cover. The covers seem to stay flared out a bit when book laid down while the pages return to flat position fairly well.

I would recommend this book to those who want to study Psalms 1-8 and believe they will have a greater gratitude for love of Christ Jesus from it.

Year:2014
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Pages: 123
Binding: glue
Boards: paperback
Scripture Index: no
Persons Index: no
Subject Index: no
Footnotes or Endnotes: footnotes
WTS Books: $9.00

This book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge in exchange for a review.  I was not required to give a positive review

Reading Jonathan Leeman’s book “Reverberation” really changed the way I viewed the scripture and increased my love for the word especially as preached, read, and sung at church.  So when I saw Jonathan Leeman’s recommendation of this book I was excited to read it.  “ Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about scripture, truth and how God speaks” is a short but extremely helpful read.  It is a good book published by The Good Book Company.

 

Who is it for?

This book would be a great read for all Christians, but may be especially suitable for discipling new believers or those young in their faith.  It also would be great for anyone interested in an intro level work on the trustworthiness of the Bible and why we have what we have as our bible.  Ultimately it would be helpful for all Christians to have a basic knowledge of trustworthiness of the book they base their faith on and this book is the place to start.

Be sure to check out this tongue in cheek promo video.

 

The Good

This book is great and I will recommend it to others.  Its brevity makes it very useful in a day when many don’t read long tomes and its simplicity and style make it accessible to readers of many ages and ability.  This can be seen in examples such as footnote 1 in chapter one (page 10) the author says “ If you’re unfamiliar with Bible references, the number before the “v” is the chapter, and the number after is the verse. So “Psalm 19 v. 1-4 means the book of Psalms, chapter 19, verses 1 to 4”.  This book truly could be handed to someone with no background or understanding of the Bible.

The book though is not so surface level as to leave a long time Christian wanting.  Cooper says things that will get you out of bed on Sunday morning ready to go hear the word preached dealing with the depth of God’s word.  On page 14 he says “ Then, just as God’s spoken word brought light into being in Genesis  1 v3, so, as we’ve just seen in Psalm 19, his written word is described as “giving light to the eyes”. As the psalm implies, God’s written word is no less powerful or life-giving than his spoken word. If this is true, then when we read God’s word, or hear it preached, we should read or listen with trembling and anticipation. The fierce power that summoned and sustains the universe is about to be unleashed again in our hearing.”  This powerful and something a new believer to the elderly saint needs to be reminded of.

 

Cooper argues persuasively thought that the Bible claims to be the word of God, seems to be the word of God, and proves to be the word of God.  Throughout these arguments there are gray boxes with little blurbs on related subjects that are helpful and place at timely spaces where it makes it natural to read and not distract from the rest of the chapter.  They are edited nicely so you don’t have to turn back pages to pick up where you previously a nice touch.

The Bad

It is a struggle to think of something to critique the book on.  One small thing is that the Author lives in the UK so some of the English is a bit foreign to us in the USA but it does not hinder the reading of it and the style the author writes with really keeps one reading along.

Another minor thing is that he says on page 72 “Sometimes, theologians speak about the “clarity” of Scripture.” This may have been a chance to introduce reader to term “perspicuity” which means clarity and is a term they will run into if they go deeper into the subject and that the bible is not necessarily easy to understand but that what is necessary for salvation is clear.

There is so much to commend about this book that I would feel comfortable handing it to anyone without  any qualifications.

The Physical Book

The book is a small paperback and bright orange (to my eyes) but with a fairly attractive design. The bible on the front is pressed out and has a nice feel when holding the book.  After reading it doesn’t lay flat again and pages seem to stay flared out.  The paper is a gray paper and not a bright white but the text type is easy on the eyes.  The outside margins have to be some of the smallest I have seen which makes taking notes difficult but there are 8 blank pages in the back with header “notes” to help one out there.  Also strangely online you will find several endorsements of the book which made me interested in picking it up but the actually hard copy contains none which is unfortunate.

Author: Barry Cooper

Publisher : The Good Book Company

Year: 2014

Pages: 81

Binding: glue

Boards: Paperback

Footnotes or endnotes: footnotes

Scripture index: no

person index: no

subject index: no

WTS books: $7.19

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review and was not required to give either a positive or negative review.

Worshipping With Calvin: Recovering The Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism by Terry L. Johnson

Worshipping with Calvin is a book that deserves a wide readership.  This book is most likely to appeal to Pastors, Music Ministers, and those in leadership of the church, but would be helpful to all of those in the pews as well.  This is an excellent book that describes the history and benefits of Reformed worship that exemplified in the liturgies of John Calvin and other reformational pastors and those reformed men who followed them.  It shows how the ministry and worship of the reformation was really a recovery of the best of the early church Patristics and ultimately and expression of Biblical worship.  One may not be convinced at every point along the way but it is definitely a primer to get one thinking about the hows and whys of our corporate worship of God, but Johnson does write in a very convincing manner.  If interested in how we ought to worship God then pick up this book.

 

The entire work may be summed up in that our corporate worship should be God centered and done in the ways God prescribes.  It is kept God centered by being Bible filled, we see worked out through the pages of this book that we are to read the bible, preach the bible, sing the bible, pray the bible and more be structured by the Bible all of this done dependent upon the Holy Spirit.  This is something not many would argue against but practically are our churches worshiping in a manner consistent with these principles.  We have a limited amount of time each Lord’s Day so we must be aware that everything done outside of what God has prescribed for us to worship Him takes away from those.  The book places an emphasis on the ordinary, or the simple in worship and therefore Johnson argues the Spiritual.  The ordinary means of grace; word, sacraments, and prayer along with singing of Psalms and Hymns are the authors argues the God ordained and most proper ways to worship God and spend our time gathered together.  Convinced of much of this already this book really deepened my understanding of the ordinary means of grace and thankfulness for them.

 

Areas that I found very interesting where the discussions on singing of Psalms and the structure of the worship service.  Having never sang and metrical Psalm in a church service his description of the history and benefits of Psalm singing were great.  Also being taught by the author that the structure or form of our worship services says something was an enlightening aspect of the book.  He talks about how the structure of reformed worship is intentional and gospel centered showing how the structure speaks as well as what is being said does.  He quotes Michael Horton saying the liturgy provides “ways of preaching the Word even before the sermon begins”.  There was much more new that I learned reading this book but those are just a couple that stuck out. 

The few critiques I have of the book are miniscule.  First is the often referenced and quoted Richard Baxter.  Several of Baxter’s works have been republished recently and even one called the “reformed pastor” and he is often talked about side by side with the reformers and puritans as one of the guys.  Yet from what I have read and heard he has some very dangerous views on justification that would be outside of the reformed doctrine of Justification by faith alone in Christ alone by the imputation of Christ righteousness.  I wish he would have made a reference in saying while Baxter’s views on worship may be helpful you want to be warned of his unorthodox views on justification.  Feel free to correct me in comments on this if I am wrong.

Another would be what I thought was a strange section where he talks about Roman Catholic missionary Matthew Ricci and says he was “… among the most successful missionaries in the history of the church.”  I hope he is saying successful in the view of Roman Catholics but bringing men into the Roman Catholic church doesn’t qualify as a successful missionary in my thinking. See page 278 for referenece. 

Lastly of concern is his doctrine of infant baptism, while I agree that baptism is a means of grace, I am a Baptist so believe infant baptism is not taught in the scriptures and is for disciples alone.  But I won’t write much on that because the book is written by a Presbyterian so it is to be expected and would be wrong if he did not defend the importance of his position.

I would recommend this book especially to those who may be considered the “young, restless, and reformed” as I know many men who have embrace the doctrines of grace but have not yet come to grasp the importance of the ordinary means of grace and the church gathered to worship.  Also excitingly the author notes that there is a follow up volume in the works dealing with the implementation of this books subject. The title for the next volume is to be “Serving with Calvin”.

Published: 2014

Publishier: Evangelical Press (EP)

Pages: 433 (320 text then bibliography and notes)

Binding: glue

Boards: Paperback (has a nice feel to it in your hands, maybe in analogy it is like eggshell paint compared to gloss, I like it a lot better than many paperbacks I have.)

Paper and typeset: The paper is thick and decent quality allowing notes with minimal bleeding and also margins are fairly wide allowing for notes and didn’t creep too far down page towards the spine for ease of reading.  The typeset was nice allowing for easy reading.

Bibliography: yes and with table of contents, is 47 pages long

Scripture index: no

index of persons: no

subject index: no

endnotes or footnotes: endnotes 75 pages of notes so made for a lot of flipping back and forth but some good material there.

This book was given to me by the publisher  in exchange for a review not required to be positive.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Forward by David Platt

I have seen this book on so many online retailers and reviews in magazines and on blogs I was very interested to read it.  I have seen very positive reviews of the book and I will for the most part agree with those.  This is a book that is helpful but may not be for everyone.  The book goes into great depth on dealing with helping those in poverty and defining what poverty is.  It discusses several methods to approaching alleviating poverty with different financial strategies.

 

I would recommend this book to those who are involved in different organizations that deal with the poor and pastors predominately.  Much of the warnings are very helpful to have a grasp of even as I was thinking of the kind of charity and work that my small group bible study partakes in.  But as far as the forming financial institutions in the majority world and how homeless shelters and like ministries might work this book would be of great help for those in leadership there.  This book will help these leaders to think more critically about how they help the poor and how they shouldn’t.

 

My qualms with this book are small and even nit picking. The authors even address my concerns to an extent.  They say on page 235 “ Space does not permit a full discussion of the issues involved in finding the proper limits of the institutional church’s involvement with the larger community, and we recognize that sincere Christians disagree on this difficult issue.”  As one who holds two a form of two kingdom theology I found myself disagreeing with certain applications of the scriptures teaching on helping the poor.  They seem to hold to more of  transformational viewpoint.  This being said most of the warnings and positive advice are applicable to all it may just differ on whether a church as a whole is doing it or individual Christians.

 

Overall I would recommend this book to all those are interested in better serving those in poverty.

 

Published: 2009, 2012 (expanded edition)

Publisher: Moody

Binding: Glue

Boards: Paperback

Notes: Endnotes

Scripture Index: no

Subject Index: no

Persons Index: no

Pages: 274

 Buy Here: $13.49

I received a copy of this book from moody publishers in exchange for a review which was not required to be positive.

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