About August 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in August 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2010 is the previous archive.

September 2010 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

August 2010 Archives

August 6, 2010

More Bible study resources: thoughtful, diverse, provocative.

I hope you read through the two lists we've recently published over at the "review columns" biblestudy.jpgpages of the website as they told about a few particular books about reading the Bible which we think would be helpful.  You know we write a lot about, and suggest books to help us, engage culture, work for justice, reflect on the "signs of the times" and nurture the calling to use hearts and minds to pursue our holy vocations (whatever they may be.)  Yet, this "wholistic" vision of missional discipleship, of Kingdom living, of living out of a distinctively Christian worldview perspective, will never fully catch on unless we hear the Word proclaimed in our congregations and in our small group studies and prayer groups.  That is, the Word as it relates to and shapes our live in the world, the Word proclaimed as a coherent narrative that can upend the false stories of this world.  So I am not trying to sound pious or doctrinally correct here---to "balance out" our suggestions about peacemaking or the arts or Christian views of science or work or economics.  No, we believe that robust discipleship depends upon our deep, profound commitments to be Bible-shaped people.  Sons and daughters of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32) "knew the times and knew what God's people should do." Their insight about the times and their confidence about a faithful response happened, surely, because they knew Torah. They were wise covenant children.  Let it be so with us.

And so, with my sermon ended (for now--heee, heee) here are a few random selections of mostly recent books you may not know about but that seem somehow germane to the larger lists of books about the overview of the Biblical narrative and such that we posted last month.

gospelgen.jpgThe Gospel in Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Crossway) $15.99  This handsome small volume is a fabulous collection of sermons preached---and never-before published--by the famous minister of Westminster Chapel in London in the middle of the 20th century.  Here is excellent Bible exposition and eloquent proclamation and good examples of how this preacher understood how to see the gospel in any portion of the Bible. Lloyd-Jones is edifying and strengthening, a contemporary Puritan in the best sense of the word, with backbone and kindness and love for the Supreme glory of Christ. 

Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation John W. Wright (IVP) $19.00  No matter if you are a preacher, teacher, or just serious Bible student, learning how to communicate the nuances of a given text within the broader theme of salvation history is tricky, at best.  The blurbs on this are too numerous to quote, but Wright (of Point Loma Nazarene University with a PhD from Notre Dame) gets raves from Ray Anderson, Stan Hauerwas, Marva Dawn, Brent Laytham, James K. A. Smith (who says it "should be required reading.")  Winsome and prophetic.  Good for learning the story, and better for learning to tell the story. Highly recommended.

9780664235161.gifJourney to the Common Good  Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $16.95  Speaking of prophets, I am sometimes stunned, left nearly breathless, by the passionate and insightful and most often faithful sermons of dear Walter.  He is on my short list of those who I esteem as mentors and heroes.  Here we have three mighty lectures---aww, go ahead an call 'em sermons---which were delivered at Regent College in British Columbia. (We sell the audios and they are excellent.) There is remarkable Bible exposition here (some nothing short of brilliant, some a bit overstated, some quite comical) and the trajectory is towards a full-orbed neighborliness that helps people of faith contribute to the common good for the glory of God.  As he has in other places, he offers thought-provoking comparisons between the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC and our own griefs and losses (such as the horror of 9-11) in the post-modern West.  This will make you think, help you see things in the Bible you may have missed, and illustrates a master teacher at work.  What a book.

bk-mannamercy.jpgManna & Mercy  Daniel Erlander (Dan Erlander Publications) $8.00 How can I even begin to explain this?  This is the whole Bible story told in an 81/2 x 11 workbook-looking thing that is hand-written, with little cartoony characters throughout. It's actually pretty cool, with a few almost looking like woodcuts.  Yet, the Biblical scholarship is serious, and the footnotes include the aforementioned Dr. Brueggemann, radical activists who understand the theme of justice and who see the flow of the Biblical narrative as a subversive movement against Empire.  The theme comes from the wilderness wanderings, of course, where the God of abundance offers enough, but the spirit of fear leads to hoarding, idolatry, and finally, systems of oppression and barbarism.  This is a vision of the Scriptures that takes seriously Torah and prophets, and wisely sees Jesus as the One who brings a regime of grace and love, enabling us to live in ways that are just and good. It might remind one a bit of Jesus for President, another fully visual telling of the Bible story, with an Anabaptist/resistance slant.  The author is a Lutheran activist with a large social consciousness who is clearly rooted in the grand Story of liberation and shalom.  This isn't for children, really, but the cartoon approach may have appeal to some younger readers.  Serious stuff, if playful.  Wow.6feeding5000.jpgSee the (religiously powerful) guys complaining in the upper right corner---saying some don't deserve free food? And the "a place for you" inscribed near the table?  This is pretty typical of his style, adding these little commentaries from time to time within the meticulous drawings.

three_views_of_the_nt_use_ot.jpgThree Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament  (Counterpoints series) Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, Peter Enns  (Zondervan) $16.99  This is one of the most interesting topics for those seeking a renewed understanding of the "one true story" of the whole of Scripture, so this is critical, urgent, stuff.  The authors, each with prestigious PhDs (from places like Aberdeen and Harvard) and years of scholarly writing, thankfully, do an excellent job bringing three different "takes" on the basic question, and I learned much from every one.  As with the others in this on-going series, each author offers feedback and critique of their conversation partners, which offers even a deeper bit of learning as the discussion goes back and forth.  Really good.

0310276551.jpgFour Views on Moving beyond the Bible to Theology (Counterpoints series) Walter Kaiser, Daniel Doriani, Kevin Vanhoozer, William Webb, Mark Strauss, Christopher Wright, and Al Wolters (Zondervan) $19.99 This is another great release in this fascinating series, and the high calibre of discourse is invigorating, informative, and, I'd wager to say, pretty accessible for nearly anyone reading this blog.   What a fabulous bit of debate about the role of the Bible in forging theology, and how theology might inform life itself.  Unlike others in this good series, a few extra voices are invited in at the end, Strauss & Wright and Creation Regained author and worldview scholar Al Wolters who do good summaries of the conversation and remind us what all is at stake.  Highly recommended.

Perspectives on Our Father Abraham: Essay in Honor of Marvin R. Wilson edited byWilsonbookcover.jpg Steven Hunt (Eerdmans) $26.00  Random collections of essays offered in honor of the retirement of a scholar or professor are often hard to describe, let alone sell.  This, though, is a perfect anthology for anyone interested in Wilson's renowned work on Jewish-Christian dialogue, the Older Testament influence on the Christian Scriptures, and, particularly, on the role of Abraham.  Wilson's own classic (called seminal by some reviewers) Our Father Abraham became the source for an PBS documentary and is here further explored by a range of scholars.  Find here interesting, thoughtful, pieces by his Gordon College colleagues, writers such as Lauren Winner, and authors from both mainline Christian and Jewish perspectives.  Nearly 400 pages, in 17 serious chapters, this is a gem of a resource, and a book we are proud to celebrate.  

Here is part of the review from Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman:  "...a remarkable volume...insightful and provocative views that are sure to challenge and inform...I highly recommend it."

But listen to this, from Sonia Schreiber Weitz of the Boston Holocaust Center

Continuing to fill our lives with his great wisdom and envisioning beautiful possibilities along the way, Marvin Wilson builds bridges of love between Christian and Jewish communities.  As for me, a survivor of the Shoah, Marv restored my faith in humanity, and for that I am eternally grateful. 
It isn't every bit of scholarly Biblical study (by a teacher at an evangelical college, no less) that garners this sort of touching tribute.  It makes us want to honor that kind of scholarship, that bears that kind of fruit eh?  These essays may not interest everyone, but it should be in church libraries and owned by those interested in details of Jewish-Christian Scripture discussions.

Jesus Matters: Good News for the 21st Century edited by James R. Krabill and David
9448.jpg Shenk (Herald Press) $16.99  I would be remiss to compile several lists of books about the Bible and not focus a bit on recent books about Jesus.  There are many--of various sorts and perspectives--but I wanted to hold up this one as a vital and interesting collection on why Jesus matters, and how His reign might led us to personal and society healing and hope. It has some very sharp authors, and the writing is mature, but clear.  This is a welcome resource for adult classes, small groups, book clubs and such.  The various authors are not all Mennonite, but the editors and publishers have this particular radical tradition.  It seems to me that this is a gift from the good folks at Herald Press that all of us can appreciate.   This is handsomely designed, too, with some nice pull quotes, good discussion questions, a bit of helpful scholarship appropriated by those wanting to serve the church and helps us better understand the person of Jesus and what it means to be a disciple in our day.  A moving forward by Shane Claiborne.  We highly recommend it and hope it is often used.

51m+1CpyvEL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe Jesus Driven Life: Reconnecting Humanity with Jesus  Michael Hardin (JDL Press) $17.95  I mentioned that I wanted to suggest some titles you might not otherwise know about.  This is written by one of the smartest guys on the planet, a Lancaster, PA,  fellow who, after leaving the narrow and intellectually unsustainable views of Jesus from his fundamentalist past, undertook years and years of study to see how the pieces of the Bible might fit together, linking Rabbinic thinking about Hebrew Scripture, Jesus' own re-working of Torah, and how early church letters thought about the saving work of the peace-bringing Savior.  The book is exciting and big in its vision. It has some oddities about it (the many fascinating and important footnotes are inexplicably in Roman numerals making it maddening to use; the author is prone to condescend and the tone shifts from irenic to bombastic, from chatty to arcane, too quickly for my tastes; he is remarkably familiar with the latest controversial speculations of the Jesus Seminar and the oldest views of the church fathers but seems to not care much about the best evangelical thinkers of our day (although, to his credit, he cites Ben Worthington and N.T. Wright and Luke Timothy Johnson on occasion); he sees the cryptic work of Rene Girard--memetic realism and psychological insights about scapegoating-- as the key to understanding the nonviolent atonement; he leans a bit on the work of Walter Wink without a nod or a wink to Marva Dawn's important critique of Wink's view of the powers; he tends to lack nuance in his dismissal of "American" Christianity, without really saying which branch or sort of American faith he despises.)  So the book is weird and, for me, finally less than convincing.

 Yet, yet, yet, it is so very interesting, learned, challenging and provocative that I happily recommend it to anyone serious about studying our Lord and Savior Jesus and learning more about the gospels in their first century setting. It is not for those who haven't read much Biblical scholarship or who don't enjoy serious digging.   Brian McLaren has a dear forward and, as Brian will do, he tells you five themes to watch for.  One, of course, is Michael's absolute love for the person of Jesus and his serious commitment to follow Him.  He may say goofy things without explaining (like that certain gospel texts aren't historically accurate) but his love for those texts is palpable. And sometimes, what he says about them is very, very good. 

This hefty volume, despite the annoying title, is important for anyone wanting to be brought up to speed on the latest sorts of conversations happening in the neo-liberal/modernist wing of the church.  Well, that isn't exactly fair, since Michael hangs around with the guild of super-academic scholars, progressive Christan peace activists, and old-order Mennonites and he clearly rejects some of the liberal dismissal of the salvific work of Christ offered by old-school liberal theologians and higher critics.  Like N.T. Wright (but more so, or so it seems) he is fluent in--and often appreciative of--- the world and assumptions of the Bible critics, yet wants us to love Jesus and embrace His commonwealth. Still, he cites the latest stuff from James Alison, Dale Allison, Marcus Borg, Walter Wink, Rita Nakashima Brock, Dietrich Ritschl, and a host of scholars from Europe and the states; this is not your mama's Sunday school class, that's for sure. Is he right? Does his novel take on things bear Godly fruit? Does his knowledge of ancient insight and his insistence on importing the work of Girard into the Story make sense?  You must decide, but it is a book worth struggling with.

Conservative evangelical friends will wonder why I promote a controversial and provocative book with a rather rare thesis.  I don't know, to be honest.  I like much of what he says here about how to handle the Bible (even while I vigorously disagree with some of it), and those of us with more traditional understandings need to be pushed and probed by others who know the Hebrew and early church stuff well and have much to teach us.  Michael seems as quick to cite the Loeb Classic Library edition of Josephus or the 3-volume Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael or the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as he is the church fathers or 20th century phenomenological philosophers.  (He reminds us often that Enlightenment logic is simply not adequate as an epistemology for knowing this stuff and, of course, he is right!)  And, as you must know, I agree with his basic assertion that Christ taught non-violence and that we are called to the holy work of peacemaking.  And, I don't know of any other Christian book that cites the prog-rock band Yes. 

A friend of Michael's is Tony Bartlett, another rising star in the peace-able, Girardian, Biblical criticism movement, whose robust Biblical nonviolence allows him to move in ways that those wedded to more traditional presuppositions may not.  Bartlett has a new book coming early next year, Virtually Christian, which Hardin cites approvingly. As I said, Michael draws on a plethora of sources and he knows oodles of good folks. Hardin's other work can be seen in the notable volume on the atonement of Christ which he co-edited, Stricken by God? and his work in the Colloquium on Violence and Religion.  You can find more of his Biblical comments at www.PreachingPeace.org.  You may not find his deconstruction and reconstruction of the Christian faith fully compelling, but I think you will be glad for the experience. It is an amazing piece of work.  Read The Jesus Driven Life and see what you think.

Imaginary Jesus  Matt Mikalatos (Barna) $14.99  While I'm on a roll suggesting stuff you maybook_cover.jpg not want to hear about, but, upon consideration, might be just the thing you need, let me tell you briefly about this crazy, fun, wild ride of a novel. It may be just what you need to think through the need for paying closer attention to Jesus.  Short version: the main character knows Jesus.  I mean really knows him.  The first line goes like this, "Jesus and I sometimes grab lunch at the Red and Black Cafe on Twelfth and Oak.  It's decorated in revolutionary black and red with posters and pictures of uprisings on the walls."  But yet, soon enough, a wild chase ensues with a furious, blue-collar dude who (named, in a fishy way, Pete) says that he knows the real Jesus and this guy isn't the real Jesus.  Spoiler alert: Pete's right.  Our hero Matt is following the wrong Jesus.  So he has to, uh, destroy the imposters.

Listen to one of our most reliable guides to the life of spiritual formation, Gary Thomas, saying what he thinks of this hoot of a story:
Take the theological forcefulness of Bonhoeffer, combine it with the imaginative whimsy of C.S. Lewis and the wit of Charles Spurgeon, and you get Matt Mikalatos.  Imaginary Jesus marks the debut of one of today's most prominent young Christian writers.
I am not so sure about the prominent part.  That depends on you.  Wanna make this a good seller? Order a few today and get some crazy friends and check it out.  You won't regret it.

crosstalk.pngCrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet  Michael Emlet (New Growth Press) $15.99  Well, perhaps these creative and programmatic re-thinkings of Scripture and discipleship aren't up your alley right now.  Maybe you most need something less akin to "a new kind of Christianity" but just a new way to live it with reliable fidelity.  You want to know the Word and the world, but you don't want anything fishy.  I can tell you with great confidence, this is the book for you.

Emlet is a man we respect, a scholar who reads widely, and does energetic work with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, a ministry with the audacious task of "restoring Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church."  Think about that.  They believe that the gospel of God, seen in the life and work of the Christ, is the power we need for not just salvation, but sanctification.  That is, a gospel-centered life can bring healing and hope, even for brokenness and painful struggles.  Emlet is a Biblical scholar and a counselor.  He's written on topics such as Asperger's Syndrome, dealing with angry children, OCD.  He stands squarely in a particular tradition of Christian counseling, yet this book is so full of Biblical insight I'm tempted to put it under the Biblical studies section, rather than Christian growth or psychology.  Actually, the book does include a lot about Biblical interpretation, including exercises---using various kinds of passages, in different practical ways. It is no surprise that the book emerged from a class he was teaching on how to interpret and apply the Scripture.

I so respect the culturally-savvy, professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, our friend, Dr William Edgar.  He knows Emlet well and says this:

Many authors can tell you what the Bible is and how to read it.  Many others can offer wisdom to face life's problems.  Few can do both.  Mike Emlet wonderfully bridges the two worlds.  CrossTalk not only gives us numerous examples of applying the Scriptures to daily life, but also models how to go about it on our won.  This book is a marvelous resource for anyone who wants to know how to navigate the often-troubled waters of personal experience.
Paul Miller, whose NavPress book on Jesus called Loved Walked Among Us is fabulously helpful, and whose recent book on prayer, A Praying Life, is one of the best I've read in ages, has this to say about Crosstalk, one of the best endorsements one could find.

In Crosstalk, Mike Emlet is serious about applying all of Scripture to all of life. Mike teaches us how to weave together the story line of Scripture with our own stories.  And Mike gets the story right.  It is a gospel story.  Mike's passion for the immediacy and centrality of the gospel story comes through on every page.

Ruth: The Story of God's Unending Redemption Robert Wauzzinski (Dordt College Press)Bobsm.jpg $14.00  I reviewed this with great gusto a few weeks back, here, having first mentioned it when it came out in February.  I mention it now, here, for two reasons.  Firstly, if you are thinking about starting up a Bible study group in the fall, and in the next weeks will be wanting to do a certain book of the Bible, you know we have tons of inductive studies, small group discussion guides, and Bible study booklets.  This small study of Ruth is a step better---not a full commentary, of course, but offering insight one won't find in a fill-in-the-blank job.  And, Rev. Wauzzinski brings together a few urgent themes in this one study that we've noted these last weeks.  It places Ruth in the broader history of redemption, seeing how Christ's own Kingdom is pre-figured in this ancient Hebrew text, and it has this all-too-rare explication about justice, charity, and public righteousness that, for those with eyes to see, is really there in the text.  So many Bible studies focus on our own personal faith and the inner journey that they fail to see the whole-life implications of God's story as it is translated into our own time.  This is a Kingdom book, for sure!

And, secondly, I mention it to make this quick offer.
 The author, handsomely shown above, will be visiting our bookstore from the mid-West on Tuesday of this week, sans Geneva gown, I hope.

 If you want an autographed copy, now is the time to ask.

 We will honor the 20% discount we offered before, but if you order before Tuesday, we can get it autographed for you. 

 Just tell us to whom to make the inscription.  He can sign 'em any way you'd like.

20 % OFF

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August 10, 2010

Innovative books on the Bible for youthworkers, teens and children

I've been writing the last few weeks about reading the whole Bible narrative as one unfolding drama, and describing, in short-hand, this narrative as the journey through good creation, radical fall, wholistic redemption and future consummation in a new creation.  I've noted books that in one way or another help us get that Story in our bones, and that help us read and study and live into God's redemptive work---His Kingdom "on Earth as it is in heaven"---by seeing the Bible through these lenses, and our lives as unfolding stories which can be shaped by the Bible.  Many of the books I cited are rooted in the work of authors like Al Wolters (and his popular, important Creation Regained) or N.T. Wright's stuff on the "acts" in the Bible, or the creative and feisty "anti-commentary" on Colossians by Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat, which illustrates this sense of God restoring creation, bringing us home to shalom, even as we are in a world of great sorrow and injustice.  As Bob Wauzzinski, author of the Ruth book I've highlighted, says, "the 'history of redemption' must lead to the redemption of history.  And that starts with creation!" And then I threw some other important new resources in the mix---the serious and important collection of articles on the Bible by D.A. Carson or the unusual but informative Girardian study of the Jesus Driven Life by radical Mennonite-ish friend Michael Hardin.  All of these odd and interesting titles that I described might help re-energize your interest in Biblical studies.  Or, if you are new to the Bible, it will help you get going in the right direction.

Work with youth?  Children?  There are tons and tons of resources here at the shop, but if you want a few to chew on, enjoy this little list.  Do pass it on to anybody in your church or fellowship who might find it interesting.  Talking about books like this--even if you don't intend to buy them now---is an important and strategic ministry.  Blessings on your conversations!

Story Signs and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry Chris 0310291992.jpg  Folmsbee (Zondervan) $14.99  I've liked this guys earlier books on youth ministry, and a friend out his way (Kansas City) knows him and speaks highly of him.  Here, though, he's done a stunning piece of work, evocative and insightful and playful and interesting.  Tony Jones says it "proposes no less than a re-invention of youth ministry based on a robust narrative theology---in other words, a theology of youth ministry that follows the contours of the biblical story."   I like this line from a great blurb by Mark Riddle, who says "this book represents a beautiful combination of research, know-how, curiosity, intuition, and the expansive experience that is uniquely Christ Folmsbee."  Or, as he puts it, "in a world of deconstructionists, Chris reconstructs a youth ministry that has depth and vitality."  And, again, it is an approach informed by this narrative theology, the very stuff I've been writing about,  informed by the very flow and shape of the big Biblical picture. Forward by Scot McKnight----which surely ought to indicate how good this is.  Know any youth workers you could gift it to?

9780310273660_th.jpgShaped by the Story: Helping Students Encounter God in a New Way  Michael Novelli (Youth Specialties) includes a DVD $29.99  I've been wanting to tell you about this cool paperback for more than a year, and keep wishing I knew more groups that use it.  I wanted to report that it really works, which I think I can, given that I now know a few who have told us about their finding it helpful.  It is, as the title implies, a guide to helping students (and I'd include even college students or younger adults here, if you want) learn this basic overview of the plot of the Bible.  Call it a postmodern "Bethel Bible" class, or a hip, youthful "Disciple" course, maybe, but know this: it is energizing, draws students in, engages them, by using an approach (I don't want to call it a technique, but a "way") that was introduced to Mike by a missionary.  He calls it "Storying" and is a sequential telling of Bible stories followed by a time of creative retelling and in-depth dialogue.  Early church-era rabbis did something like this and they were called targums.  This ancient/new approach builds a lasting theological foundation (or so they hope) while challenging students to discover their unique identity and calling within God's Story.  Sounds great, doesn't it? 

There is a training DVD that comes with it, and it shows not only how to tell the Bible story, but how to do the discussions that will allow your group to experience God in a Biblically-based, and, perhaps, life-changing way.   You can get some of this dialogical approach to Bible learning for free at www.echothestory.com and after visiting there, you will know if you want to invest in the book.  Please check it out.

t_0310669278.jpgEnter the Story: 7 Experiences to Unlock the Bible for Your Student  Michael Novelli (Youth Specialties) includes a CD-Rom $18.99   Do you think too many people are suggesting dumbing down the Bible for students?  This is a better way, offering more exercises based on his Shaped by the Story project.  Here, you invite participants to step into God's story (sometimes quite literally.)  With this experiential learning approach, you'll find detailed instructions to effectively prepare hands-on and engaging lessons on what he calls creation, disruption, Israel's Journey, The Tabernacle, The Kingdom, Journey to the Cross, and Restoration.  You can "drop these in" from time to time as special pieces to your youth classes or fellowships, or use them in succession, weekly or at a retreat.  This is a great handbook to have around if you want to explore not only dialogical storying, but storying about God's unfolding Story.  The Bible isn't a compilation of random episodes, but a coherent outworking of promise and deliverance, fulfillment and hope.  The old song says "we love to tell the story." This will help you tell it right, in learning ways that are transformative.

0687000823.jpgThinking Theologically About...Body Image, Money, Pop Culture, and Haves & Have-Nots  (Abingdon) $5.95 each.  Leaders guides $9.95 each  We have suggested that the trajectory of the Bible narrative is that, in Christ, the reign of God breaks into history and intends to bring shalom---pushing back the curse of the fall---to every area of life.  It is the task of God's people to hear and do the gospel, being "living letters" to the world, agents of reconciliation, ambassadors of this future hope.  And so, to discern the times and be faithful to our calling, we must help students read "the Word and the world" to be formed by the Bible in such as way that their "minds are transformed" and they live as "aliens" in this corrupt culture.  This is a project and perspective that is neither fundamentalist or liberal, as I see it.  And I long for creatively done youth curriculum resources that help students see the Biblical story as shaping their worldview and practice and that "hit0687006775.jpg the ground" with practical ways to think about real life.  This wonderful series does just this.  In each book, (there are four different ones) the authors ask, in the final, 6th unit, this questions: "what was God's original intent?" and "how did 'the fall' distort it?" and "how does the Cross transform it?" and then "how are we then to live?"

So, say, for money, or the body, we ask about the creational goodness, the sinful distortions, and the redemptive impact.  What remarkable ways to see each and everything thing in life and culture---made good, truly messed up, and being redeemed by Christ.  Because these were created by United Methodists, they use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which studies a topic firstly in light of Scripture, then our Experience, using obvious Reason, and asking about the best Christian Traditions and what they have to say.  (This makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?)  Throughout there are journalling options, plenty of discussion questions, a few little rituals to explore. So, each of these four "issue" oriented, hot-topic studies do thoughtful, Biblical study, informed by common sense and church history, which all leads to the big questions in the last session, shaping practice informed by creation-fall-redemption.  How great is that?  Buy 'em quick, before they go out of print!

0310708257.jpgThe Jesus Storybook Bible Sally Lloyd-Jones & Jago (Zonderkidz) $16.99  You know we've raved about this before, enjoy the story, the well-crafted telling, the artwork, perfect for young pre-schoolers or early readers.  The most important thing, though, is the way in which it captures the lovely subtitle, "each story whispers His name."  Each book of the Bible may not "shout" Christ's name, but it does, if one has the ears to hear, whisper the promise and fulfillment.  I know some can overdo the Christo-centric readings, but this wonderful resource gets it really right; again, it shows that the Holy Book is not a random collection of individual stories nor primarily a book of doctrinal instruction or morals.  We have sold this to adults sometimes by just reading out loud the first part, the bit about the nature of a story, and truth of the Scriptural story, and the way the creation of all things is the start of that drama. By the way, if you noted our recommendation last week of the famous British preacher, Martin Lloyd-Jones and a new book of sermons on Genesis, yes, you are right to see the family name here.  By the way, there is a nice audio CD of some of the Jesus Storybook Bible that comes in a deluxe edition.
0310708257_01.jpgHere is a website that has some audio and video, and a great interview with Sally that explains what is unique and vital about this work.

what-god-has-always-wanted-bibles-big-idea-charles-boyd-hardcover-cover-art.jpgWhat God Has Always Wanted: The Bible's Big Idea from Genesis through Revelation Charles F. Boyd & Dennas Davis (FamilyLife Publishing) $14.99  This looks like a fairly standard fare children's story book with upbeat whimsical drawings and a nice, inexpensive feel. (I mean no disrespect to say it feels like a book from Ideals or even a golden book.)  But, wow, what a Story.  It shows the consistent plot-line of the Bible--God bringing the children of earth back to Himself--and it delightfully reminds us that this rescue plan is multi-ethnic and ends up on a newly restored planet.  It is well told, reads well out loud, helps children understand the simple gospel message.  Jesus doesn't just live "in your heart/chest" but is alive in the world, finishing the good work described in the slow unfolding story of the Bible.  Serious Bible scholars like John Walton and brilliant storytellers like Haddon Robinson endorse it.  God wants friends to dwell with Him and is working out a way for that to happen.  What a big-picture idea.

61-Ew7gne3L._SL500_AA300_.jpgChildren of God Storybook Bible  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Zondervan) $18.99  On sale for $14.97.  Yes, the famous Nobel Peace Prize Winner has crafted a beautifully illustrated storybook Bible, and it is a winner.  How can we describe the generous tone, the uplifting way in which the stories are rendered, the appropriate, visionary (but never overly didactic) multi-cultural illustrations.  In fact, this is one of the great joys of the book---it is illustrated by dozens of authors from around the world, and each was invited to offer an artful impression of the story using their own culture.  What a fun and creative way to see global art, to recall the global nature of the body of Christ, and to remember that this grand Story3127829222_99538e0ba9_t.jpg is, truly, about "red and yellow, black and white" as the Sunday school rhyme puts it.  It's a radical song, you know, and having a Christian hero like Tutu and these artists drawn from the nations are a great way to remind us.
                                                                 The Archbishop signing books at an event in South Africa                                                                

There are free audio downloads at www.ChildrenofGodBible.com if you want to hear some of it for yourself---you'll delight in Tutu's sense of humor, the joy he brings to the project.  This is a very, very nice website.  Do visit, but be sure to come back here!

978-1-4143-3630-5-212x300.jpgWhat's in the Bible with Buck Denver (Jellyfish Labs) $14.99 each  on sale for $12.97 each
1 In the Beginning
2 Let My People Go

3 Wanderin' in the Desert

Okay. I hope you trust me on this. These are spectacular!  You may or may not still appreciate the Veggie Tales, although, even if you think the brand became a bit over-done, you have to admit they were clever, witty, and most often very insightful, essentially true to the Bible story.  Well, the honcho behind this whirlwind of brilliance was, of course, Phil Vischer (who, by the way, has a very interesting memoir out, about the rise and fall of the Veggie Empire) and he has decided to focus his energies on a Veggie-like/Muppet-ish, wild and crazy survey of the Bible.  Yep, this is amazing---how does he think of this stuff?---very funny,  engagingly interesting, and very solid stuff about the Bible.  There are three DVDs out at this point, and we cannot say enough about them.  The first one includes a bit about how the Bible got written, compiled and such.  (Ahh, I love the wacky, fast-paced first few minutes, where an old Sunday School lady says "they are only three minutes in and it's off the tracks already!") This is tremendous for elementary-aged kids, with some very helpful information, a bit of sarcasm, a lot of inside jokes, and enough wit to keep adults glued.  I suspect not everybody will be as thrilled as I am, but True Fan or not, these are valuable, fun, and highly recommended.  Get your Christian educators on this, pronto.
WebBanner_728x90_WITB.jpgI dare you to listen to the first minute of Phil Vischer's little video clip here that tells about why he's doing this project, and not be excited.   Watch the next few minutes and get a rapid fire bunch of excerpts and clips, but that doesn't do it justice.  Check out the other trailers. Read reviews. Ask around.  I'm beggin' ya.  Don't miss this.  What's in the Bible.  With Buck Denver.  (And Friends.)  

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August 17, 2010

Award Winning Bible Atlas and other great books of maps

Although I don't write about them here, much, we have a nice selection of Bible reference books, one-volume commentaries, research tools on everything from what the church fathers and patristics said about Bible texts to how the Scriptures came together; we have a good number of things on the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few Greek and Hebrew aids.  Most often, though, we sell Bible dictionaries and concordances.  Yet, since the Scriptures are a Story about God's redemptive history in time, that is, in real history, that is, in true places, which we call geography, we'd like to suggest that folks get in the habit of using Bible atlases and maps.  To wit, here are a few we like.  I tried to list a few different sorts, depending on your needs and budget.  Let us know in the comment section below if there is one you've found particularly helpful.

And, we would like to ask for a drum roll for these first two.  The first won a prestigious award from a gang o cartographers (I wonder where cartophraphers get together, and if they use GPS to get there?  Sorry; I digress.)  The second is, well, just about the best and biggest one we've seen, ever.  Both deserve a applause.  Does your church have a library where they stock this stuff, at least for Bible study leaders and Sunday school teachers?  Might you pass this on to whoever stocks such a resource room?  Thanks.

9780802404411LG.jpgThe New Moody Atlas of the Bible  Barry Beitzel (Moody Press) $49.99  We proudly list this one not only because it is recent, and won a "Gold Medallion" from the Christian Booksellers Association, but it also won, just recently, the "best book of maps [of any sort] published this year" by a professional association of cartographers.  Beitzel has done numerous Bible maps (for the NIV Study Bible, for instance) and is quite the man. He has studied Semitics at Fuller Theological Seminary and general linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. The association honors map-makers by giving awards to maps, guidebooks, wall maps, and various sorts of examples of their work and this New Moody Atlas won in the category of maps in a printed book.  It is a comprehensive survey of important Bible locations and events and offers great looks at Bible history and geography.  It is really informative, up-to-date, and very clear in tone and content.  It has several good indexes (so you can find the same place as it may be shown on different maps) and lots of Bible citations.  It is getting rave reviews from some of our best Bible scholars (Tremper Longman, Doug Moo, etc.)  It has good articles, lots of color illustrations, and nearly 120 different clearly-done maps. Kudos.

esv-bible-atlas.jpgThe ESV Bible Atlas  John Currid & David Barrett (Crossway) introductory price, $49.99; soon, $55.00  This is the largest and heaviest map book we have in the store (and it further includes a big poster, and a CD-rom) and includes over 175 full-color maps!  Written by a Bible scholar and an experienced cartographer, it is perhaps the best ever done.  It shows in brilliantly designed pages the geographic, geological and historical information in a way that is easy to use and won't overwhelm with technical information (as some tend to do.) Its size isn't an indication that it is filled up with too much detail, but rather that it is truly comprehensive and very, very helpful.  This is made by folks with great integrity who wanted to create a resource to go with the recent, conservative and highly regarded English Standard Version translation (some of the maps in this are from the acclaimed ESV Study Bible.) It is getting very truly great reviews.  And, like the study Bible, it is very well made, so the pages lay flat and it is assured for durability.  A truly wonderful book at an excellent value if you want a significant reference tool like this.

9781426707575.jpgThe Essential Bible Guide: Bible Background with Maps, Charts, and Lists  Menashe Har-El, Paul Wright, and Baruch Sarel (Abingdon) $24.95  This is a great, brand-new volume that was created in the Israel by Holy Land scholars there.  It is much less weighty or thick than the previously mentioned one, but is loaded information, descriptions of Iron Age-era confederations and battles and tribes and mountain ranges and seas and cities and cultural customs. As you would expect there are plenty of colorful illustrations and scenic photopgraphy and such.  It has 115 pages and over 60 maps.  Very handsome.

The Historical Atlas of the Bible Lands
  Caroline Hull & Andrew Jotischky (Penguin) $20.00  This is a light-weight medium-sized paperback, nicely done on glossy paper, and a mainstream classic used in college classes and the like. It has lists of kings and historical figures, great photos and artwork reconstructions, and over 50 full color maps.  There may be more text here than maps, and so much reads more like a Bible encyclopedia.

Oxford Bible Atlas fourth edition Adrian Curtis (Oxford University Press) $24.95  This latest edition of this small classic is very nicely done, drawing on contemporary, modern, critical scholarship.  There are only 27 maps, though, but some are the latest "three-dimensional" computer generated ones, so it looks great and is quite helpful.  There is a lot on ancient history, archeology, geography and such and a few pages that I found less useful, too.

IVP Atlas of Bible History Paul Lawrence  (IVP) $45.00 
This, too, is an award-winning
2452.jpg volume, having been award just a few years ago the best book of its kind by the CBA, earning the "Gold Medallion."  We certainly  commend it as one of the very best ever done.  There were a host of thoughtful scholars, Bible guys, archeologists, historians and writers who consulted to put this remarkable book together.  We enjoy how it is written, how reliable it is, and the good design.  It does take a narrative approach, so the writing is helpful, captivating, and draws readers in to the big picture of the Holy drama.  One reviewer said it was a "visually rich work, brimming with high-quality photographs."  It has nearly 100 relief maps.

map.jpgThen and Now Bible Maps (Rose) $19.97  This is a fascinating, spiral bound volume that has dozens of maps of Bible times and places, and clear plastic overlays that allow you to compare modern-day cities and countries.  It includes some time lines comparing the Bible chronology and world history, too.  The maps are basic and clear (not the award-winning and stunning cartography in the first few) but are very, very useful, since few people know the ancient-to-modern comparison of Bible lands.

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts
(third edition) (Nelson) $19.99  This is less an atlas and more a big paperback collection of useful resources, lists,  outlines of each section of the Bible and interesting stuff of all sorts.  The maps are exceptionally clear (but quite basic; no 3D or handsome ones like in the true atlas style reference books) and there are charts galore.  These are reproducible, too, so can be used for handouts or reference.  There are almost 500 pages of information, and it is may be useful for putting things in their proper order, along with tables and diagrams and good introductions to each book.
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August 19, 2010

Books on caring for aging parents

As you know, sometimes I share lists with you that are first developed for a customer who inquires about what sort of books are best in a given field.  Actually, we don't pretend to know the "best" but we do try to offer suggestions that are good for the person or group---best as we can tell---who has asked us. So, here are some recommendations for a book club, study team, or anybody wanting to think about caring for elderly parents, the role of mid-life adults taking care of their own dear folks.  By the way, we have a number of resources on aging, on older adult ministry, and a lot of good reading for elders who may want devotionals or reflections about growing older.  Just call us if you'd like or if you know anybody who might want something like that, written for an older readership.

These, though, as you can see, are mostly about caring for aging parents.  Hope it is helpful.

Caring for Your Aging Parent: When Love Is Not Enough Barbara Deane (NavPress) $15.99  This is well written and touching and insightful, if a bit basic.  A good number of years old, now, but it stays in print.  Balanced, thoughtful, interesting and helpful, from a clearly Christian perspective.  Some have said it has nearly revolutionized how they see their aging folks, and given them fabulous ideas on how to cope.

Changing Places: A Christian's Guide for Caring for Aging Parents  Betty Benson
2354899.jpg Robertson (Beacon Hill) $14.99  Betty is a pleasant author, funny, known for her sensible Bible studies and evangelical faith.  This one also has a nice tone and while it is very practical, tells stories, shares the anguish of these times, and is based mostly on her own experience bringing an ailing parent into their home.  It gives lots of common sense ideas and is quite reassuring.


Family Squeezed: Tales of Hope and Hilarity for a Sandwiched Generation
Phil Callaway (Multnomah) $13.99  You know the "squeezed" phrase, or the "sandwich" generation---between raising kids and caring for elders.  This reads almost like a novel, as he shares touching--but usually hilarious--stories of his own crazy family.  As he puts it, being middle aged today is between "the greatest generation and the gimmee generation."  No wonder it is tricky, " Money is tight and so are your favorite jeans. "  Some call Callaway "Dave Berry with a message."  Nice.

Taking Care of Parents Who Didn't Take Care of You: Making Peace with Aging Parents Eleanor Cade (Hazelden) $16.00  This is not overtly Christian, but thought I should mention it as it could be important for someone out there.  Hazeldon is the AA publisher, and they are renown for doing things for folks in recovery.  Well, what if you were raised in an abusive or alcoholic or neglectful or controlling family?  How does one "make amends" on top of the obligations to care for aging parents.  This is a powerful story, a long-overdue look at a sad situation that is laden with possibilities of redemption for those who are willing...She offers a compassionate and realistic guide with lots of poignant stories.

My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing Slow Medicine, The Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones Dennis McCullough (Harper) $14.99  This is not a religious perspective, and some even think it is controversial, so some sharp folks might caringly reflect on it.  It is mostly about medical issues.  The author invites us to be proactive and intentional about health care and not await for acute or crisis situations that demand major medical interventions.  I'm not sure how one can always anticipate the complications, but this is a kind guide to thinking about the medical needs of our elders without going overboard and entering a health care system that may end up making matters more complicated and expensive and inhumane.  One reviewer called it "comforting in its compassion and detail."

Caringformother.jpgCaring for Mother: A Daughter's Long Goodbye  Virginia Stem Owens (WJK) $16.95  Oh, boy, get the tissues out for this one.  Beth and I were just awestruck by this when we read it as it so chronicled the exact frustrations and pain we experienced as my mother-in-law was in her last weeks in and out of hospitals, talking to too many doctors, medical confusions and institutional errors and less-than-attentive caregivers and the consequences of feeling marginal and helpless in this dear time at the end of life.  I devoured her prose, with tears and sighing too deep for words. Ms Owens is a great Christian writer (friend of Eugene Peterson and poet Luci Shaw) and these essays are powerful, essential reading---although may be too specific about end of life care of a dying parent that it may not be right for your group if you are seeking something about all sorts of aging issues.  Still, this account of caring for the dying and navigating the medical worlds is tender and passionate and beautiful;  this is truly a sacred story, set on holy ground, by one of our finest memoirists.  Very, very highly recommended.

181542.jpgA Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America Dudley Clendinen (Penguin) $16.00  Once again, this isn't a faith-based book, so it wouldn't be right for a Sunday school class, but it is one we couldn't put down.  The author's parents ended up in a retirement village---everything paid---in swanky Florida and as he visited often, he decided to do some investigative journalism and write a book about the inside scoop on this little enclave of the very old.  It is both hilariously funny, quite touching, truly interesting, pretty enlightening (who knew half of this stuff?) It unfolds like a novel, or a great bit of magazine reporting, and we were hooked on wanting to know what happens as these folks age, and as this author grew to care for this home full of characters.  This particular place (literally called Canterbury) may not be exactly the sort of place most of our parents end up, but the stories are remarkable, and we learned a lot.  Some colorful language, by the way, and a chapter on the sex lives at Canterbury.  Oh my...would make a great book club read, or a "end of the summer" beach book.

book_home.jpgA Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty Joni Eareckson Tada (Zondervan) $21.99  special sale price, $5.00 off-- $16.99
 As we struggle with the pressures of care-giving, we get exhausted and weary and, understandably, begin to doubt the deepest things of our faith.  Here, a woman who has suffered much (and even know, in her pain-wracked days, has just announced her breast cancer diagnosis) has so much to teach us.  Joni is a very, very smart woman and has earned the right to speak about mature theology, harsh stuff, and the joy of serving God, even in times of great pain and hardship. This is brand new, very thoughtful, and we are please to be able to share it with you.  See the sale price, noted above.

Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century: An Inquiry Approach  Richard Gentzler
9780881775402.gif (Discipleship Resources) $13.00  While this is a handbook for thinking about ministry and I suppose is aimed at an audience of church leaders, any strong Christian might find it interesting to think strategically about reaching and serving and nurturing the faith of our elderly.  This is a truly marvelous resource; one Presbyterian consultant on the topic wrote "I have waited almost 30 years for this book to be written."  For churches or individuals wanting to do ministry---and, really, that might be all of us if we care about the faith of our parents---this gives sociological insights, health-related stuff, chapters on spiritual formation, a bit on development issues.  It covers everything from the theology needed to understand dementia to worksheets for caregivers.  There is a chapter on how boomers view death and dying, and there is plenty to reflect upon for anyone curious, even if not planning an official launch of a new church-based ministry per se.  I like the balance of perspective and of practicality.  Very nicely done.

Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God  Paul David Tripp (Shepherd Press)
Lost in the middle_small.png $15.95  Tripp has written a great, Biblically-based book on parenting teens (Age of Opportunity) and is a Reformed scholar and counselor who emphasizes a strong role of the Bible as we care for one another in helping ministries.  (His Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands has the subtitle "people in need of change helping people in need of change.") This is not really about caring for elderly adults, but it seems that, even though the Bible never exactly mentions "mid-life" it does offer great resources for those of us going through this time of transition. He believes that there is much regret and pain and unspoken conflict in this time of life (these days, especially) and offers the hope of the gospel which allows us to reflect on how we can renew our faith, find our way anew, and see more clearly how God can help us carry on.  He's certainly attuned to family dynamics and such, so this is a very appropriate book for anyone in this season of life.

scan0005.jpgHannah Coulter  Wendell Berry (Counterpoint) $14.95  Memory of Old Jack was the very first Wendell Berry novel I read,  thanks to my friend the fiddler, Bob Buckingham, back in the early 80s and I've been a fan of Berry's fiction and poems ever since. I have long intended to re-read it, now that I know even more about Mr. Berry and (through other novels) the friends and kin old Jack Beechum describes in that long-ago story.  Mr. Berry is known, perhaps best, for his incisive essays about place, land, the economies of scale, sustainable agriculture, creation-care, farm life, and such.  His love of rural life and a sense of place pervades his prophetic critique of bigness, modernity, progress and the false gods of growth and efficiency, but, almost as central, is this sense of "the membership" of a community, a network of family and friends and place, related, somehow, in unspoken troth.

 This "membership" thesis is described as beautifully and as tenderly and as realistically as ever in his novels, all set in the fictional town of Port Williams, KY.  Hannah Coulter has been through a lot--her first husband killed in World War II---and in her old age at the end of the 20th century she looks back over her life.  This telling of her life story rings true for many older women I know, raised on farms, children of the depression, watching their land and families divided by highways and college, and,  now, computers, and jet travel. This tender, insightful, wonderful story simply called Hannah Coulter is perhaps my favorite Wendell Berry novel, perhaps only surpassed by his well-loved novel of 2000, Jayber Crow.

I think the story of Hannah, and her clear voice, will help anyone of any age understand much of our elderly population as they recall their lives and prepare for their deaths.  Give it to your aging parents, and ask them, especially your mothers or grandmothers.  This is a gem of a book, and we simply could not give it a higher recommendation.

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