Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Book Review: Parables by John MacArthur

Parables appear to be simple stories, simple enough to be the subject of children's church and Bible school lessons, but there are always new insights gained by understanding more about the cultural background and context. And deeper understanding is what I want as a grown-up student.  MacArthur has a reputation for excellent Biblical commentary so I jumped at the opportunity to review his new book.

MacArthur begins with a lengthy introduction that skewers the study of parables as mere stories--open to individual interpretation.  He argues, convincingly, that there is an intended truth in each parable and we're wise to reach for it.

Each chapter examines a different parable such as the sower and the seed, the treasure in the field, the Good Samaritan, the landowner paying his hired laborers, and so on.  MacArthur teaches the parable in context so that readers can grasp the purpose and principles taught.  He digs into rabbinical sources, Hebrew words, and Greek text. Combine this with MacArthur's years of experience with Biblical study and the result is a book that informs as well as inspires.

I'm intrigued by MacArthur's thesis that Jesus began teaching in parables in order to bring plain truth to those who were open to hearing the Gospel, while concealing the underlying meaning from those who rejected the truth.  Jesus use of parables increased after certain Pharisees began to plot against him.  If this is so, then Christians should take care to examine Jesus parables more carefully and not just think of them as simply stories.

This is definitely one of those books that bears rereading with pen and highlighter in hand.  Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in a deeper understanding of the New Testament.

Parables: The Mysteries of God's Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told
John MacArthur
Nelson Books, 2015

I received a free copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

God Bless Our Fall (Book Review)

God Bless Our Fall is part of the "God Bless" series from Tommy Nelson.  Author Hannah C. Hall has different animal families enjoy various autumn activities: hayrides, pumpkin carving, making and eating fall foods.  Each page spread contains a rhyming verse and Steve Whitlow's illustrations are soft and colorful.  (Look for a squirrel in each picture!)

My family loves this book.  It has a sweet voice that honors God, mothers, fathers, and all the joys of the season.  It's an enjoyable book to read aloud because of it's bouncy rhyming pattern.

This is a great cuddle up and read book and would also make a wonderful read aloud for a preschool classroom.

God Bless Our Fall
Hannah C. Hall / Steve Whitlow
Tommy Nelson, 2015

I received a free copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Be the Best Mom You Can Be (Book Review)

Truth be told, the title of this book didn't really appeal to me.  Ugh. Too much pressure.  But the subtitle caught my eye: "A practical guide to raising whole children in a broken generation".  I don't need mom perfectionism, but I do need advice on helping my children navigate an increasingly broken world.

Marina Slayton is no dewey-eyed, Pinterest-inspired supermom.  She's raised her children in different environments, different countries, and has learned the value of what's really important. She's had to deliberately forge a path through motherhood without the benefit of a positive role-model mom herself.

Her message is not about what you do as a mom, but who you are. Are you working toward becoming a whole person, in Christ?  Do you cultivate and nurture relationships with your spouse, your children, your friends? Do you focus too much on your children's achievements or being a perfect mom?  Do you get your directions from the World or from the Word?

I love her openness and honesty about her own struggles. There were gems of wisdom in every chapter.  Even chapters specifically on working moms and single moms contained advice that's applicable to everyone.  You don't even need to be a mom to benefit from this book.

This would make a fantastic book study as there are Scriptures and questions and applications for each chapter.  There would definitely be no shortage of discussion.  Highly recommended.  I think I'll read it again!

I received a free copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate: Book Review

I first heard about John Thompson's book Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate: Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World on Phil Vischer's podcast.  Thomson talked about his love of good music and of good artisanal foods.  He spoke about something he called "twang" and how it's missing from so many mass-marketed products (music in particular) and even from some church communities.  I was so interested in what he had to say, that I immediately requested this book for review.  And I was not disappointed.

Thompson's book is one part memoir of his difficult childhood; one part exploration of different handcrafted products (bread, chocolate, beer, coffee, and music); and one part call to the church to become less mass-market driven and more Christ-filled community.  Far too often the church aligns itself with the values of the Industrial Revolution more than the life of the early church.

I found the chapters on artisanal food fascinating.  Thompson admits to being a food-snob and it would be easy to dismiss him as just another hipster Christian.  But he displays a humility of spirit and vulnerability that kept me reading and made me think.  I was particularly interested in how the manufacture of bread has changed over time.  We process all the nutrients out of dough, then inject them back in creating bread that contains nutrition but does not satisfy.  Likewise, in an effort to please the masses, we sometimes remove the grain of the gospel in order to make it easier to digest.  Then we inject a feel-good message that only fills us temporarily.  We seek a relationship with Jesus, but we settle for less that His best.

This would make a great book study and would definitely start some discussions.  Some might not like the chapter on beer, but no matter your opinion on alcohol, there are applicable lessons there too.

I received a free copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers in return for an honest review.