Kindle Matchbook – Amazon Selling you e-versions of the Books You Own Cheap

Amazon announced that you can get kindle books of the hard copies you have purchased through amazon for $0.99-$2.99! So far only 1,000 titles are available. Great news…get more info below

Lifehacker

Engadget

Review of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG) on Logos

BDAGI have owned a hard copy of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG) for the last 8 years and it has been an invaluable resource on my shelf. There just isn’t any other lexicon out there with this amount of detail and accuracy. It has been my “go to” resource for Greek studies. I am going to talk about the hard copy and then about what Logos has done with it to take this resource to the next level. Even if you already have the hard copy, I think you will be very interested to see what they have done to make it ever better.

The hard copy retails for right at $100 on amazon. This book contains every single word used in the Greek New Testament listed and defined in alphabetical order along with a whole litany of pertinent information that will assist you in your studies, preaching, teaching, etc. Here is a list of the most common things listed under each entry.
Formal equivalent/gloss: a word it can be translated with…think of this as single word suggestions that are the English equivalents. Italic font
Extended definition: a full definition which is more explaining the concept than a word to translate it by. Bold font
Translation equivalent: often a suggested translation of a given phrase is supplied
– Multiple glosses/definitions as needed for a given word in Greek
– Every NT occurrence of that Greek word categorized under what they interpret it to be the appropriate definition, relevant extra-biblical usage of the word with a citation so you can go look that up, sometimes a Hebrew equivalent is given.

In the Logos version, you get all of the functionality that I just described in addition to some features that make BDAG a whole lot faster to use, much more user friendly and interactive with other Logos resources. Here are some of the things that I thought were extremely helpful.

Outstanding Search Capabilities
One thing that stand out about Logos’ version of BDAG is that it is way more than just a digital/pdf version of the hard copy. There are tools they have included that have increased its functionality and integrated its search features that have saved me countless hours of searching.thate that takes BDAG above and beyond just taking the print version and making it digital.

First, BDAG is fully searchable. You can type in “church” and get any time it appears in the book. But you can get more specific in your search by filtering your search to a selection of any of the following: search by formal equivalent (blood must be in the gloss), search by extended definition (blood is in the conceptual explanation) and/or translation equivalent. This makes it easier to find more common words by having more specific search options. BDAG is over 1100 pages of very small print so this comes in handy. In order to do this, you click the search button at the top of Logos, click “Entire Library” and change that to BDAG. Then click “all text” and check “search fields”. Last, click the down arrow by search fields in order to select the fields you want. It will then look like this and you can check on or off any fields you want to search within

SearchFields

Let’s say you land at “Ekklesia” it would look like this (notice the extended definition in bold, the gloss in italics)

Ekklesia

If you rollover any of the scriptures they provide you get the verse. If I rollover Acts 19:39 in definition number 1 here is the result

Ekklesia-scripturerollover

Now, let’s say you want more information on a Greek word that is in the text. You can search your other resources for that word by right clicking on it and then selecting the search option you want.

Ekklesia-lookupwordindefinition
In this instance I right clicked the word you see at the bottom left συνερχομενων and then clicked “Search all open resources” which allows me to quickly search BDAG (and in this instance the SBL Greek New Testament since that was open as well) for all other instances of that exact word. Here are the results

results

Those search results demonstrate another great feature. I had my SBL Greek New Testament open at the same time and as you can see the only time that word is used in the GNT is in 1 Cor 11:18. If you double click the word in the text and it is in its lexical form, say you clicked και or θεος it would take you straight to that entry in BDAG. Then you just use the “back” arrow at the top right of the window to get back where you were in your study.

Integration with other Greek Language products
BDAG integrates with many other Logos products. Let’s say you are reading your SBL Greek New Testament and you want to look up a word in BDAG. You just double click the word and you are on the word in the full text of BDAG. I cannot tell you how helpful that is. What is more, if you download the free Logos App you can do this on the fly away from the office. I was listening to a sermon the other day where three Greek words were mentioned in a specific verse. I got out my iphone, opened the Logos app, pulled up the verse in the Greek NT, clicked the words and had them in BDAG right in front of me. On a side note, you cannot click words that have been transliterated and get the same result. For instance, Ben Witherington almost always transliterates his Greek words so the words aren’t in a Greek font. You cannot click those and end up in BDAG as it is not integrated with transliteration.

I am still playing with the features but have really appreciated what I have found. The thing that will make this interesting to many of you is that I have found this helpful and fast enough that it has renewed the amount of time I spend in the Greek New Testament because I can get to what I need quickly and easily. I want to wrap up the review by thanking Logos for allowing me to have a copy for this review.

This can be purchased from Logos bundled with the 5 volume Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) here

bdag-halot-bundle

Jesus in Context – One of the Most Helpful Biblical Background Books Around

JesusInContext-BockI recently came across the most helpful resources on the historical backgrounds to the Gospels that I have ever seen. It is called Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study by Darrell Bock. This book works through the synoptics and John and pulls just about any relevant extra-biblical text in full quotation to help you see what other ancient writers said about a topic, a city, a custom, etc. Reading the geneaology of Jesus? Look and see how other ancient Jewish writers did genealogies. Studying Jesus’ turning water to wine at Cana? You go to that miracle in this book and it first gives you a bit of historical background on eschatology and wine followed by relevant quotations from 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch, Tobit, and the Talmud on wine and quotations from Josephus on Cana. Combine the content with Logos Bible software and you have an unbelievably powerful resource for your studies. This book concludes with multiple indices that include index by topic, by scripture, by extra-biblical reference and a huge list for further reading broken down by topic, If you are a student of the Gospels and want extra-biblical references all in one place this is the book for you. If you would use Logos and would like to have it at your disposal in a fully searchable, indexed format with clickable links with full references for you to use in your study or writing, you can get it here.

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 3

AllJesusAsksThe third book in the Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection is Stan Guthrie’s All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us. Guthrie takes the majority of questions Jesus asked during his ministry and weaves them into an investigation of the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. In later chapters he turns to questions that explore our identity as disciples (character, (in)competency, attitude, etc) and finally concludes with some apologetics.

After being fairly critical of the other book he did in this collection, “A Concise Guide to Bible Prophesy“. I am really happy to say that this book was excellent. It is thorough. It is insightful. The illustrations are excellent. If I had to compare this to something, I would call this book “Jesus’ Questions for Everyone” as his style reminds me of N.T. Wright’s “For Everyone” Series of New Testament commentaries. He touches on the relevant verses, illustrating and commentating along the way.

I would recommend this book not just to people who want all of Jesus’ questions in one place but to people who enjoy investigation. He doesn’t just linearly and analytically make a list of questions and address them. He weaves the questions of JesusI really love that because any book about questions should feel like an investigation…it is just being fair to your subject…and Guthrie really does pull it off.

There are only three criticisms I have of this book. First, he admits that he is no biblical scholar so there are times I think he missed the point. One of those times in in Chapter 4, “His Humanity” where Guthrie interprets some of Jesus questions to mean that Jesus asked certain questions because he really had no idea of the answer. Here is one example,

When Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate, and a Roman execution for sedition looms large, the procurator asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus is not concerned with saving his own skin, but learning whether this brutal Roman official might be a spiritual seeker, one in whom the seed of faith is likely to grow. “Do you say this of your own accord,” he asks, “or did others say it to you about me?” Jesus genuinely wants an answer because he doesn’t know. – Guthrie, S. (2010). All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us (60). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Jesus was making a point in asking the question that goes beyond him just being ignorant of the answer (much like God asking Adam and Eve “Where are you” after they sinned – Gen 3:9). Of the recorded questions of Jesus in the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t normally ask questions out of ignorance. His questions make a point. This entire book was about how Jesus taught through questions, so I am not sure how he missed it on this one.

The second criticism I have of the book just comes with the territory. Any time you deal with passages out of context and develop a whole book that strings together related topics and verses out of context you run the risk of missing some of the meaning. Like the above examples, that happened a few times in the book. Again, that is to be expected due to the way the book is laid out. Third, when you take out of context verses and force them into a self-made framework you run the risk of twisting some passages to fit your topics. That doesn’t come across too much in this book but it does happen. (See Procrustean bed)

Overall, great book and one I would recommend. What the book lacks in scholarship (which overall is pretty insignificant) Guthrie makes up for in his journalistic style, engaging commentary, and ability to connect the reader to the thrill of the investigation, relevance and application. Questions are powerful and Guthrie does a great job of handling the questions of Jesus from his own perspective without getting in the way.

Gordon Fee’s Admonition to Preachers – Don’t Become “Professional”

Another post from Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee. Fee’s admonition is on the danger of ministers getting out of touch with God and their task becoming routine and “professional” rather than seeing ministry as a spiritual and vibrant activity,

“I regularly tell students: Have the touch of God on your life. Live in fellowship with him; be among those who cry out with the Psalmist, ‘my soul and my flesh long for you’; ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ If those who teach and preach God’s Word, which preaching must be based on solid exegesis of the text, do not themselves yearn for God, live constantly in God’s presence, hunger and thirst after God – then how can they possibly bring off the ultimate goal of exegesis, to help to fashion God’s people into genuine Spirituality?

A great danger lurks here, you understand, especially for those who have been called of God to serve the church in pastoral and teaching roles. The danger is to become a professional (in the pejorative sense of the word): to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God. I fear for students the day when exegesis becomes easy; or when exegesis is what one does primarily for the sake of others. Because all too often such exegesis is no longer accompanied with a burning heart, so that one no longer lets the texts speak to them. If the biblical text does not grip or possess on’e own soul, it will likely to very little for those who hear.

All of this to say, then, that the first place that exegesis and Spiritual interface is in the exegete’s own soul – that the aim of exegesis is Spirituality, which must be what the exegete brings to the exegetical task, as well as being the ultimate aim of the task itself.”

Few ministers are unaware of this point. It is just important to be reminded of it time and time again. Keeping our heart connected to God in ministry is essential to longevity, to growth and to effectiveness. The danger of routine ministry is great. One thing that helps keep ministers from getting in a rut is to continuously remember that God is working in us and through us to make an eternal difference in the lives of others…that is hardly ordinary or routine! Remembering that and living in light of that is the challenge.

Recommended Reading List for Elders

I occasionally get books for our elders that I think might be helpful to them and to the church. Here are some of the books that would be a benefit for an eldership to read. If you guys add books in the comments that you think should be on this list I will add them in. I started the list with Jesus because, well, that’s where it starts.

Jesus
The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
Simply Jesus – NT Wright
Jesus Creed – Scot McKnight
Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

How to Read/Interpret the Bible
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth – Gordon Fee
Eat This Book – Eugene Peterson
Blue Parakeet – Scot McKnight

Vision & Communication
Making Vision Stick – Andy Stanley
Visioneering – Andy Stanley
Communicating for a Change – Andy Stanley

Ministry Practice/Process
7 Practices of Effective Ministry – Andy Stanley

Discipling & Mission
Forgotten Ways Handbook – Alan Hirsch
Multiplying Missional Leaders – Mike Breen
Creating a Missional Culture – JR Woodward

Leading:
Leadership Without Easy Answers by Ronald Heifetz
The Making of a Leader by Robert Clinton
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

Church & Culture
Center Church – Tim Keller
Deep & Wide – Andy Stanley
Reimagining Church – Frank Viola
UnChristian by Gabe Lyons
You Lost Me by David Kinnaman
Surprising Insights from the Unchurched – Thom Rainer

The Problem With a Lot of Ministry Books Today

I just finished one of the most highly recommended books on discipleship written in the last six months. Here is the book in a nutshell – We are supposed to disciple people because God commanded it. We have to take God’s commands seriously. We haven’t done it (that was said at least 50 times in different ways). The mission God has for us is amazing. Let’s go do it. The book concluded with a single chapter on how to do it that turned out to be a list of questions to consider. I can’t say that I walked away from that book with a single new idea regarding discipleship or anything that I would actually do that the book helped me see more clearly. What is so frustrating about that is, I know the author of this book is up to some really great things and it might be helpful to learn from some of that. I don’t think everything he is doing in his context will work in mine but I do think hearing what he is doing would help.

Discipleship is such a hot topic because it has been a gaping hole in the mission and ministry of many churches. We need to hear about discipleship. I am fine with that but at some point action has to be taken and most of the books I have read have a lot of things to say about what is going on and what should be going on but have little to say on what it might actually look like if we did something about it.

Over the last 10-15 years of Christians publishing it seems like the same few topics come up all the time and the same things are said over and over again. It kind of makes me feel like we are running in circles with the need for a few trail blazers to finally pick a direction and go rather than just keep rehashing the same stuff over and over again. Or maybe the trail blazers who are righting the books need to spend less time trying to convince us of what we already know (that God said we must do it but we aren’t) and more time equipping us to create a vision for it in our context and execute ministry in line with that vision. I am so grateful to Mike Breen for doing exactly that in his writing.

Anyone else experience this?

Thanks to these guys for recently following the blog:
Deacon Jason
Gene
Colonel of Corn
Everyday Power Blog
Jason Stover

Book Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell

When Love Wins came out I wrote an 11 part review that pretty much expressed my dissatisfaction and aggravation with the book. So when I picked up Rob Bell’s newest book, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” I was pretty skeptical. The cover only confirmed my suspicions. I am not much of a design guy and things like this don’t usually bother me but this cover is an eye-sore. It is just all over the place and I just knew that the book would be too.

You really can’t judge a book by its cover…This is a really good book. Even in light of all the past aggravation I have no reservation in saying that. I know others have said it is bad. Rick Ianniello posted a review by Timothy Tennent entitled “Farewell Bell” that blasted the book and others have said the same. I am afraid that preconceived ideas and the new media of Bell saying he is for gay marriage is muddying the waters on how good this book really is if you just picked it up and read it, not knowing who Rob Bell is…just for what it actually says about us and about God and about how we talk about God. That doesn’t mean I have zero  complaints or disagreements. More on that later.

As mentioned in a previous post, this book is the result of Bell’s own faith struggles and the conclusions he has reached through wrestling with his doubts and questions concerning God, faith, religion, etc. Bell puts his finger on the pulse of contemporary culture saying that many view belief in God as a “step backwards”. This book is written to help people understand how that isn’t the case at all. This book is written to help Christians and non-Christians alike understand God in deep and profound ways. It is written to get us back in tune with God and with ourselves and with others. It is written to give us a glimpse into the complexities of everything from life to emotion to aesthetics and beauty to physics…God is not a step backward. Walking with God is a step forward. Bell shows us that from scripture and from science.

This book is popular level theology, anthropology epistemology, eschatology and apologetics all wrapped up and wrapped together with personal stories. In this book, Rob Bell explicitly affirms his belief in some very important Christian doctrines including the reality of God, the reality of sin, our need for repentance, reconciliation and confession. He affirms the human condition and the power of sin and our need for reconciliation with God. What is more, he affirms the reality of the resurrection. The post I linked to above says that Bell does not clearly affirm the Resurrection in this book,

“As noted earlier, Bell tells the story of his own growing doubts about the credibility of the Resurrection (p. 12), and only brings it up again late in the book when he says, “In Jesus we see the God who bears the full brunt of our freedom, entering into the human story, carrying our pain and sorrow and sin and despair and denials of God and then, as the story goes, being resurrected three days later” (p. 145). Using the phrase, “as the story goes” leaves the reader with the impression that this is what Christians teach, rather than an historical event upon which the whole faith rises or falls. Either Bell no longer affirms the Resurrection or he has failed to understand its true significance. Either way, it is very troubling. Throughout the book, Bell consistently gives us a pre-resurrected Jesus, carefully choosing texts which connect Jesus to the deeper spiritual consciousness which keeps our “reverence humming within” (p. 15), but carefully avoiding the radical exclusivity of Jesus’ teaching as well as the post-resurrection confidence in the cosmic supremacy of Jesus Christ.”

Let me give you the rest of what Rob wrote right after the “as the story goes” comment. Here is the very next thing Bell wrote on that page,

“For the first Christians that was the compelling part, the unexpected twist on Jesus’ life, the ending that is really a beginning. They saw in Jesus’s resurrection a new era in human consciousness, a new way to see the world being birthed, a way in which even death does  not have the last word…it isn’t over, the last word hasn’t been spoken–a savior dying on a cross isn’t the end, it’s just the start. And so when I talk about God, I’m talking about the Jesus who invites us to embrace our weakness and doubt and anger and whatever other pain and helplessness we’re carrying around, offering it up in al of its mystery, strangeness, pain and unresolved tension to God, trusting that in the same way that Jesus’s offering of his body and blood brings us new life, this present pain and brokenness can also be turned into something new.” (p.145-146)

In that quote Bell affirms the resurrection. He affirms the divinity of Christ. He affirms that this is not just about how early Christians saw it but that it comes back to us and how we live and interact with God in light of the resurrection…pain and defeat aren’t the last word for us either. I really don’t see why Timothy was so troubled by the section on the resurrection unless he just read part and got frustrated and didn’t get the rest of it.

What I do think Timothy got right was that what this book lacked was pointing us to Christ through scripture. It left me with the impression that Bell puts his own intuition on level with scripture if not slightly ahead of scripture. That bothers me a bit…we have to realize, though, that you aren’t going to put down every single thing you believe in the pages of any given book. If I had to ask Rob one question based on this book it would be about his view of Scripture’s place in the life of a Christian.

Last, I the only other criticism I have of the book is that it ended very poorly with some decent conclusion but horrible supporting evidence in regard to aesthetics, intuition, etc (like when he was trying to talk about the intangible connections between people and things and mentioned that we all exert a gravitational pull on each other, therefore we really all do affect and influence each other…good conclusion, terrible support). Also, in various places in the book Bell almost sounds like a pantheist and New Age. I know he wouldn’t support that but the book almost sounds New Age at times in talking about cosmic and spiritual humming and energy. I could have done without that…I think it really distracted from his overall point. On the whole, I was blessed by reading this book and found it very engaging. I actually just had a discussion with a friend who shared with me some of his doubts and I pulled a few thoughts from this book to help him see it more clearly and he was very thankful for the conversation.

What We Talk About When We Talk About God – Rob Bell

RobBell-GodFor whatever reason I ended up with a review copy of Rob Bell’s new book “What we talk about when we talk about God” and wow…it is not what I expected. In fact, from what I have read so far…it totally makes us for his book “Love wins”. Kidding there. I am going to do a fuller review in a future post but I want to make you want to read this book, not because some publisher asked me to do that but because I appreciate what Rob Bell is doing here and I believe it is extremely relevant. Here is what happened with this book…I don’t know if this violates some sort of word count limit or not but I find all of this so hopeful and helpful that I want to share it with you so that you can tell if this is something you might be interested in reading. Here is why Rob said he wrote this book,

“One Sunday morning a number of years ago I found myself -face-to-face with the possibility that there is no God and we really are on our own and this may be all there is.

Now I realize lots of people have questions and convictions and doubts along those lines–that’s nothing new. But in my case, it was an Easter Sunday morning, and I was a pastor. I was driving to church services where I’d be giving a sermon about how there is a God and that God came here to Earth to do something miraculous and rise from the dead so that all of us could live forever.

And it was expected that I would do this passionately and confidently and persuasively with great hope and joy and lots of exclamation points!!!!!

That’s how the Easter sermon goes, right? Imagine if I’d stood up there and said, ‘Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I gotta be honest with you: I think we’re kinda screwed.”

Doesn’t work does it?…

That Easter Sunday was fairly traumatic, to say the least, because I realized that without some serious reflection and study and wise counsel I couldn’t keep going without losing something vital to my sanity. The only way forward was to plunge headfirst into my doubts and swim all the way to the bottom and find out just how deep that pool went. And if I had to, in the end, walk away in good conscience, then so be it. At least I’d have my integrity.

This book, then, is deeply personal for me. Much of what I’ve written here comes directly out of my own doubt, skepticism and dark nights of the soul when I found myself questioning-to be honest-everything…What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradula awakening to new perspectives on God-specficially, the God Jesus talked about. I came to see that there were depths and dimensions to the ancient Hebrew tradition, and to the Christian tradition which  grew out of that, that spoke directly to my questions and sturggles in coming to terms with how to conceive of who God is and what God is and why that even matters and what that has to do with life in this world here and now” (p.11-14)

Wow…there are so many people who are in that boat or agnostics (fastest growing “religious” group in America) who will benefit from walking along side Rob Bell through this book.

A Comprehensive List of Scot McKnight’s Commentary Recommendations: The Pastor’s Bookshelf

Scot McKnight often lists his recommended commentaries on various books of the Bible in what he calls the “Pastors Bookshelf”. Here are the ones he has done so far all in one place. This is an invaluable resource for selecting the best of the best commentaries on each book of the New Testament. Thanks Scot for taking the time to assemble this over the last few years. If Scot has already compiled this somewhere let me know.

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Acts of the Apostles

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians & Philemon

1 & 2 Thessalonians

Pastorals (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus)

Hebrews

James

1-2 Peter & Jude

1-3 John

Revelation