Book Review: The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile) – Steven Lawson

My Rating – Put it on the list

Level – Easy, Medium length

The first chapter is a short biographical stretch of the man many consider to be the greatest American Theologian of all time. The rest of the chapters are devoted to Edwards’ construction of his ‘Resolution.’ Unfortunately, as Edwards didn’t order or systematize his Resolutions, the book seems to jump around a bit as Lawson attempts to categorize the list. However, the book does an excellent job of spelling many of the resolutions and giving us the story or reasons behind them. Many of the most interesting parts of the chapters has to do with how the Resolutions affected Edwards’ life.

In the appendix of the book, you can read the entire Resolutions.

My Thoughts
The best use of this book is to view it not as a biography, but as a commentary on Edwards’ Resolutions. The strength of the book isn’t so much it’s info on the life of Edwards, but instead it’s interaction with the Resolutions and different points of his life, or how his resolutions affected his life.

I personally found some of his attempts overwhelming, bordering on unnecessary. Obviously, Edwards is much more pious and disciplined than me and most people. However, his limited the amount of food he’d eat so as not to waste time or enjoy food too much just seemed extreme and unhealthy.

This book is well written and will challenge you. Lawson does a good job of posing questions at the end of each chapter. Anyone interested in spiritual disciplines or Jonathan Edwards needs to put this book on their reading list.


*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review (see more in my about page).

Book Review: How to Read Genesis

How to Read Genesis by Tremper Longman, III

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Easy, short

This book is exactly what the title says it is a guidebook to understanding and reading Genesis. Longman explains what the book (Genesis) is, who wrote it, whom it was written to as well as its place among other ancient literature. He breaks down the structure of the book into three parts: primeval history, which is verses 1-11; patriarchal narratives, 12-36; and Joseph’s story, 37-50. He then wraps up with notes on how we as Christians should read it, paying particular attention to our view after the cross. That is, with our knowledge of Christ, looking back at the Genesis story and reading it looking at how it points to Christ.

Longman does not take a view of young earth nor does he give much attention to evolution. This makes sense in that it is not an exposition of Genesis, but rather a guide to reading it.

My Thoughts
This should be the starting point for anyone curious about anything in Genesis 1-11 – age of the earth, historical Adam, the flood, giants, people living hundreds of years, even evolution. A broad understanding of what Genesis is and is supposed to be will help you to understand these issues, even those he doesn’t delve too much into.

For those that aren’t as concerned with these issues, it is still a very important book in helping you understand literature that nearly defies genre or categorization. Genesis is literally the foundation of the Bible. Far too many people are quick to either throw the book out or bury their heads in the sand and just say ‘its literal’.

Every Christian should read this book to help them grow in understanding and knowledge of the Word.

Reader’s Guide to Amos (1:3-2:5)

Editor – I posted the wrong section last week. This goes first, obviously. Read through these oracles and then read my previous post, it will make that post seem more coherent. I’ve updated links in this post to reflect the screw up.


Three weeks ago, I outlined how to read the first oracles of Amos. Today, I want to point out some notes that are helpful in understanding what is going on as you read. This covers Amos 1:3-2:5 and contains the seven oracles against other nations. The best way to use this would be to go read my previous post about the structure of the oracles, then read through verses themselves while using these notes when words, phrases, or places are unfamiliar. Hope it helps.

Aram (1:3-5)
Damascus is the capital of Aram.
Modern version read “threshed Gilead” older manuscripts such as those at Qumran or the LXX inserts ‘the pregnant women.” Threshing was/is the process of removing seed from stalk. So, if this accusation is literal, it is quite heinous. Threshing spikes were used to increase the efficacy in the threshing.
Hazael was king of Aram. He assumed the throne by killing Ben-Hadad (son of Hadad, a storm god). Interestingly, Hazael’s son, once king, assumed the name Ben-Hadad. It’s unclear which Amos is referring to, but points to more than a single person or event, but rather a geo-political group.
“Gate-bar” in movies after the hero comes ridding in through the gates of the fortress after escaping the (following, attacking, pursuing) foe, they shut the giant wooden gates and then lay are large wood/iron bar across to prevent the doors from being opened. Yahweh will destroy this bar, which not only shows his power, but leaves them unable to protect themselves by shutting the gate again.
Valley of Aven and Beth Eden are places in the region of Aram. The one ‘sitting’ and one who ‘holds the scepter’ are the rulers of the area. The message is, all of Aram, not just Damascus and all those in charge, so that no other family takes over rule.
Kir is unknown, but is possibly the place the Arameans came from. Either way, they are exiled and no longer have a land their own.

Philistia (1:6-8)
Gaza was the most prominent and powerful city in the region. Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron are all areas of Philistia.
“Exiled a whole people” not just the soldiers/prisoners of war. Instead, they took whole towns communities, men women and children and sold them into slavery.

Phoenicia (1:9-10)
Tyure was the strongest Phoenician City.
“Forgot the covenant of brotherhood” the broke the treaty with someone, we do not know whom.
Same crime and punishment as to Philisia. Continue reading

Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

My Rating –Put it on the List

Level – Not very readable, seems longer than it is

The book is exactly what you think it is based on the title. He jumps straight in with the first chapter explaining what he thinks (based on scripture) the spiritual disciplines are and why they are important. There are 10 disciplines and he devotes two chapters to the first, and then one each to the others – Reading the Bible, Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence and Solitude, Journaling, and Learning. He wraps up the book with a chapter on ‘perseverance in the disciplines’ and the importance of making them habits.

I assume most are quite familiar with the first five, and likely stewardship as well, however he has a bit of a twist. When most people here that word in context of church, they think money (though, presently, some may start to associate it with the environment), but he talks about time as well. I think this is an interesting point, that I’ve never really heard discussed. Often in the American church it’s about what not to do, as in, avoiding sin, not instead, focused on what to do. Don’t spend your time getting hammered. Makes sense, that’d be a sin. However, what if you spent 12 hours on Saturday watching college football? Not a sin, but…is it really the best use of your time? Are you really being disciplined, are you gaining from that? Obviously, this hit home for me.

The others, many people are familiar with, but in the American Evangelical church, things like fasting and solitude sound a little too Catholicy, so I’ve never really heard them taught. I was especially intrigued with fasting. It is abundantly clear in scripture that this is something we ought to do. But, I’ve never in my life done it. I’ll admit, though he says you really aren’t supposed to ever tell, but I tried fasting based on this chapter and bits of Piper’s A Hunger for God, on Fridays during lent. I’ll write more on that later, but the book is probably worth the price just to read that chapter. Continue reading

Readers Guide to Amos (2:6-3:8)

We continue on from the previous few weeks with the readers guide to the Minor Prophets. When we left off, Amos had just announced the oracles against other nations. He now starts in on Israel. Go read the passage, then come back for the notes below and then read it again. Hopefully, this helps in understanding the text.

Israel 2:6-16
Now Amos focus on the Israelite themselves. He starts with the same pattern (for three…four, shall not turn), but here seems much worse. Instead of the ‘fourth’ we have a list of sins.
The sins are (WBC)
Sale of the poor into Slavery
Oppression of the poor
Sexual abuse
Exploitation of needy debtors
These are not specific sins, but daily occurrences in Israel

Selling into slavery, silver was a high price, for a pair of sandals (likely hyperbole) was obviously low. Basically saying, you’ll sell anyone for anything you can get.
Treated the poor like dirt.
So, we don’t know who the woman is. EBC says mother-in-law or stepmother, Tyndale says daughter-in-law by corruption of concubinage, others say just a girl. This could be a prostitute or someone at the temple. Either way, if not the both of them are engaging in general sexual sin, one of them is breaking codes of incest and adultery.
It was a common practice t the time to take an item of clothing as a pledge (such as on a debt), but you were required to give it back at night, as the poor would have nothing else to keep warm.
The wine was paid as a fine, possible unjustly imposed, that the priest then drank the wine. Fines are supposed to be for making restitution, not for getting drunk.

This is God’s indignation at Israel. He reminds them that it was He who did all these things and now they profane his name and oppress the poor. Read it as, “After all I’ve done this (the aforementioned crimes) is how you repay me.
12 – Nazerites were ‘consecrated agents of God among his people’(WBC) and among other special rules, did not drink.

I will crush you as if a full cart ran over you, driving you into the ground.

My Translation of 14-16:
You have no chance. The fast will not move, the strong will be weak, and even the might warriors will die. The archers will not even be able to stand, the quick will still die, even if they are on a horse, they cannot outrun me. Even the bravest among you will run away, naked and afraid when my wrath comes.

‘Only you have I known’ means you are the one I’ve made a covenant with, therefore, punishment must come.
This is followed by seven rhetorical questions. E.G. People who are traveling together, have obviously met before.  The most important of which is the final question. Basically saying, if I have commanded someone to speak, they must speak (this is over and against what we read earlier, that the prophets were told not to speak).

Book Review: How Would Jesus Vote?

I’m excited to post my first advanced review of a book. The book goes on sale May 17th, so check out my review and then go buy it (from the link below). It is a must read for anyone interested in current political issues.

How Would Jesus Vote?: Do Your Political Views Really Align With The Bible? by Darrell L. Bock

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Fairly Easy, moderate in length

The book seeks to look at broad topics in American politics and see what we can determine about them from the Bible. Bock does this mostly by listing verses and how they can apply. Along with an intro and concluding chapter, he writes 13 chapters:

  1. Principals that built America – interesting chapter on the point of religious freedom as the founders saw it.
  2. Loving your neighbor – obviously a major point for Jesus, not only was it the second greatest commandment, but gave us the famous story of the Good Samaritan. Bock points to this idea as our starting point for looking at issues the way Jesus would.
  3. Big or Small Government – brief overview of the pros and cons of each. The best take away is more his point that we needed to realize we can’t have everything and need thoughtfully seek a balance.
  4. Economics of Poverty – he continues the balance idea from the previous chapter and extends it to balancing helping the poor and personal responsibility.
  5. Health Care – this is a tough topic, as there is nothing in the Bible about healthcare. He does a great job pointing out the massive failures of our current system, but doesn’t really say much as to how Jesus or we should vote about it.
  6. Immigration – you really forget how much about immigration there is in the Bible, especially the OT. This seems to be an ancient problem that has affected most societies. Due to this, he takes a stronger stance in this chapter as to which way we should vote and consider this issue.
  7. Gun Control – similar to the health care discussion, there isn’t much in the Bible about guns, as, you know, they didn’t exist yet. He summarizes the horrible impact of our gun violence, but isn’t willing to go as far as saying we should vote to curtail it.
  8. Foreign Policy and Globalization – this chapter explores National Interest or Common Good, the latter being international good. Not much from the Bible here either, but interesting overall and a good general analysis of how the issue impacts America.
  9. War and Peace – looked at the ideas of ‘Just’ War or Pacifism, tracing the concept of a ‘Just’ War (as in justified) to Augustine and the idea of Pacifism to the Bible. Not many policy implications outside of war as a means of last resort, and some questions regarding whether preemptive war counts as justified.
  10. Race – great chapter to take on this issue. Walks a nice line between looking at race and realizing there are real differences and problems as well as clear historical issues, all while reminding us to look past race in the sense that all are created in God’s image as well as tying everything back to ‘loving your neighbor’. He also calls on Christians to care about these issues and to acknowledge there is an issue.
  11. Education – obviously an important topic that is not discussed as much as it should be in our society, but again it felt more like some of the other chapters where he points out how poorly we are doing without really taking up one policy or another.
  12. The Family – one of the stronger chapters as far as policy goes, there are two aspects focused on in this chapter. One is the problem of single parent households and the other is gay marriage. He points to the damage and disadvantages of growing up in a single parent household and focuses on how Christians should seek to strengthen families. He views gay marriage as unbiblical with clear scriptural proofs, but then seems to tie it to the family issue, without discussing the fact that a child could be brought up in a two parent household this way.
  13. Abortion – pretty clear here. He never points to an exact time in which life begins, admitting that we really don’t know. However, it is certainly sooner than 12 weeks. Most Christians will not find anything new in this chapter, but it is a compelling reminder of the issue, nonetheless.

My Thoughts
My only disappointment in this book is he never really states how he thinks Jesus would vote. He usually has a heading at the end of each chapter that asks what would Jesus have to say but never goes as far as picking a side on many of the issues or even alluding to which party may be better than the other on a particular topic. That likely has to do more with the title the editors gave the book than what Bock intended to do.

This is a very important book for people curious as to how their faith should interact with politics, especially in our current political climate where each side, at different times, claims Christ and disparages the other party as the unbelievers. People should take the time to read through the issues and really think about the verses listed.