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Pray for the Flock: Ministering God's Grace Through Intercession (Practical Shepherding Series)
Pray for the Flock: Ministering God's Grace Through Intercession (Practical Shepherding Series)
by Brian Croft
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.23
56 used & new from $5.11

5.0 out of 5 stars A brief, sincere call to a vital, neglected duty, October 25, 2015
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This is another great publication in the Practical Shepherding series - a line of short books intended for new pastors who are trying to learn the ropes of ministry. This topic is one that no pastor really needs to be reminded of: we all know we should be praying for our churches regularly, and (for most of us) probably far more than we are. Croft and Fullerton have put together a great book here on the Biblical need to be praying for our people more as well as providing some great advice on how to approach that.

Perhaps my favorite part of this was their encouragement to pray big prayers - to pull ourselves out of the safe prayers and to pray expectantly, looking for the God of the universe to move powerfully in our people.

This book is short ... it 125 pages, but the book doesn't really start until page 11, and it essentially ends on p. 108. It's short enough that you could read the whole thing on a Sunday afternoon. It's also divided into short chapters which I think would make great discussion starters for a church staff or a team of elders to work through.

The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry
The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry
by Jason Helopoulos
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.51
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Look at the Heart of Pastoral Ministry, October 25, 2015
There is definitely a surge of material coming out lately in support of pastors. With The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry, Jason Helopoulos has written a helpful book that I expect will become required reading in many evangelical seminaries. The angle of this book is to walk through a handful of issues that a new pastor will face in his first years in ministry. The issue is not so much a series of case studies about what to do when you have a tough situation as instead a stark assessment of the fact that you sure will have tough situations to deal with, and those tough situations do not mean you have failed as a pastor.

The overall approach here is very gentle, matching the book's subtitle of being "Help and Encouragement." It's very easy to come into ministry and expect that it will simply be a matter of coming in and conquering new territory for the Lord. The fact is, as a pastor you are dealing with real people - which is simply another way of saying sinners. You'll come fact to face with their sin, including ways they will personally disappoint you and betray you. The fact that the sinners in your church still sin doesn't make you a failure as a pastor.

Over and over, Helopoulos comes back to the amazing privilege and indescribable rewards of being a pastor. It is a lofty role indeed. And just as frequently, he reminds the new pastor of the real fuel of his ministry: the pastor's personal walk with Jesus. The book consists in 48 chapters which are probably 3-4 pages each, and while I read them probably 5-10 at a time, it would be profitable to read these one at a time, perhaps each morning as one begins a day of ministry. I think this is a book that would reward multiple readings.

I would highly recommend using this as an introduction to the pastoral ministry, and then using some of the "Practical Shepherding" series by Brian Croft as a more detailed supplement for actual "how to do this" type advice. Finally, Tripp's Dangerous Calling is a great examination of the pastor's heart. Each of these is incredibly valuable and worth space on the new pastor's bookshelf.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Baker in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review, but I do so gladly!

Love Casts Out Fear: A Jihad Survivor's Journey from Revenge to Redemption
Love Casts Out Fear: A Jihad Survivor's Journey from Revenge to Redemption
by Brother Nathan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.25
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story, but not what the cover would lead you to expect, October 22, 2015
When you pick up a book, you expect the cover to give you some idea of what you are getting. Far too often, I have found that Baker Books is a little deceptive in this matter, and this book is like that. You would think with a subtitle like "A Jihad Survivors Journey from Revenge to Redemption" that we would be looking at a story of somebody who was perhaps embroiled in the Islamic Brotherhood or something, but found Christ. His "jihad" years were from age 6-11. Even the idea of identifying the author as "Brother Nathan" and choosing to rename his hometown to "Anytown" to keep from identifying him seems silly, since the rest of the book includes so many details it would not be hard for somebody - especially somebody with government connections - to work out exactly who the author is.

I find it really hard to grade this book. Brother Nathan has had a faithful Christian walk in difficult circumstances, and God has used him to do much in the name of Christ in Egypt. But if you are picking this book up expecting to read about his dark days in jihad, and then find that his father was a pastor, and after coming to Christ, he becomes a pastor in his father's footsteps, it's a bit of a letdown. There is absolutely a place for people publishing quality Christian educational materials in Arabic and serving the church of the middle east. There is a great beauty in reading the love of his mother and the sweet courtship Nathan had with his wife. It's amazing to see how God takes a nobody in an obscure village of Egypt and raises him up to be a voice to Christendom around the world.

That said, with limited reading time available to me ... if I had understood what this book was actually about, I doubt I would have read it. There are stories that are more compelling reading out there. Please do not misunderstand me - what God has done in this brother's life is glorious. But with only so much time to read so many books, I would not have chosen to read this one, and I would not have finished it except that I promised to produce a review for it.

Baker Books provided a complimentary copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.

God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology)
God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology)
by James M. Hamilton Jr.
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.98
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, persuasive argument, August 25, 2015
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The objective of this book was to look narrowly at a controversial subject matter: what happened in the salvation of the Old Testament faithful? If we take seriously the New Testament teaching that nobody can come to faith without God's intervention, and that the Holy Spirit indwells his people to grow them in holiness and preserve their faith, did this happen with Old Testament believers? It seems like the answer would have to be yes, but then in John 7:39, John says unambiguously that the Spirit had not yet been given.

Hamilton's thesis is that in the OT the Holy Spirit did indeed regenerate hearts so that people would believe, but rather than preserving them through the indwelling Spirit, God's people were preserved through the presence of God dwelling with his people in the tablernacle/temple. Hamilton deals well with the relevant OT passages, such as those that say that "the Spirit rushed upon him," and looks at the promises of the New Covenant in some detail. Most of the work of this was looking at the Gospel according to John.

Chapter 4 was the most in depth exegesis, working through a number of questions in John such as the meaning of "Paraclete". For some readers this chapter will be tedious. Overall, Hamilton's writing is crisp. He looks at the issues carefully, but always stays on topic. He makes reference to terms in Hebrew and Greek, but one can benefit from this even without any knowledge of those languages. I found his exegesis clear and compelling.

It's rare that I would give a five star rating to a book on a niche theological issue, but this book is really so well done it has earned it.

Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel
Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel
by Russell D. Moore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
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5.0 out of 5 stars The End of Cultural Christianity, August 25, 2015
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Russell Moore has written a great book calling for the church to stop thinking of itself as the "normal" standard of Amercian culture - what was once called the Moral Majority - and to embrace the role which we've probably always been: a prophetic minority. Over and over he shows how we have been too eager to settle for "moral" behavior, too eager to join ourselves to political causes which kinda sorta seem to want some of the same things we want.

Moore argues that this is no time for hand-wringing worry that the church of Jesus Christ is going to fail, and it is no time to resign ourselves to a bunker mentality. Rather it is time to engage the culture with greater clarity. It is time to realize that most people around us think that evangelical Christianity is weird ... and it's time to realize that that is OK, and even a good thing.

Moore takes on issue after issue after issue, from abortion to poverty to marriage. He pulls no punches, consistently showing how the church historically has shot itself in the foot on all of these issues. But the book is also overwhelmingly optimistic. This is an age of great hope and opportunity for the Gospel. Jesus is still on the throne and he is still building his church. Our role in contemporary American culture is so much more clear now, and that is a blessing we should not despise.

I loved this book. I found myself underlining great points on almost every page, and I don't recall reading a single statement that I disagreed with. This is an incredibly helpful work, and I think God that he has raised up Russell Moore to be a voice to us at such a time as this.

We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry
We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry
by G. K. Beale
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.54
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3.0 out of 5 stars Strong exegesis, but tough reading and only half done, August 11, 2015
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"We become what we worship, either for ruin or restoration." This is the thesis of this book, and I think Beale does a compelling job spelling that out, working through so many texts from Genesis to Revelation. This book can be read by a mature lay reader - Beale does not require any knowledge of Greek or Hebrew - but really I think it will be a sturdy challenge for everybody. The exegesis is very intricate, and Beale plays out countless connections to his theme throughout Scripture (and even in the Second Temple writings, and the Dead Sea Scrolls).

Demonstrating the transforming effects of idolatry in the Old Testament is natural enough, since this was Israel's besetting sin. Beale's explanations of Genesis 3, Exodus 32, Ps 106 and 115, Isaiah 6, and Hosea 4 were very compelling, and he demonstrates his theme well. The New Testament is harder since, as Beale notes, there is not a single text which explicitly supports his thesis. His exegesis then is looking at how the OT tests inform the thoughts of the NT writers, showing surprising grammatical connections between NT texts and the Septuagint renderings of the OT. Some of these seemed like a stretch (and some of them he even concedes may be a stretch) but it was interesting to see.

My first inclination was to give this a four star rating, because Beale really does pour a tremendous amount of information into the work and has surely done his work in exegesis. But I have two primary complaints about this work which drag it down.

1. The material should have been edited down to be 50-100 pages shorter than it was. I understand that exegesis is hard work, but in explaining the Old Testament texts, he exegetes how the NT applies the them. And then when he looks at the NT texts, he wants to make connections to the OT background and so he is thoroughly working through the same texts. It seemed like there was a lot of duplication. I'm OK with reading academic literature, but I found this work often to be pretty dry and repetitive. There were not a few times that I felt like just putting the book down and saying "enough."

2. His thesis, "we become what we worship, whether for restoration or ruin," was very thoroughly covered on the side that those who worship idols become like the idols. However, I was extremely disappointed that the positive side of his thesis got almost no attention. The idea that we are conformed to the image of Christ is no small theme in the New Testament, but it seemed like an afterthought in this work. If Beale had reduced his discussion of idolatry by 100 pages and dedicated those pages to the positive theme of this work (and especially showing how that theme is worked out in the OT) I think this would have been an incredible work. It's a missed opportunity.

Please don't get me wrong - this was a very solid work, and I'm glad to have read it. But I don't think I'll be passing this along to any of my friends to read, and for that, I give three stars.

Colossians and Philemon (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
Colossians and Philemon (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
by David W. Pao
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $28.75
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best exegetical commentary for your money, August 5, 2015
I really appreciated this commentary as I was preaching through Colossians. The layout is excellent - probably the best of any of the Colossians commentaries I used. Pao's writing is excellent, and I thought he struck a good balance between getting lost in the minutia of exploring every word versus being overly simplistic The format and typesetting of the pages is very pleasant to read - a sharp contrast with WBC, for example.

The commentary does a lot of things which are very helpful for a pastor. It presents the main idea of each section -- not something you would use as a proposition for a sermon, but a concise statement of what Paul is getting at. Instead of a simple translation of the text, Pao (like the rest of this series) provides his as mechanical layout ... you remember the indented charts you had to do back in seminary, where you showed which clauses related to which, indenting as appropriate? ... complete with the relationships and functions of each clause. There is an explanation of how the text fits in the context of the letter, and a discussion of how the thought develops within the text.

The explanation of the text is nice, including the English text (Pao's own translation) in bold, along with the Greek text from which it derives. The commentary is not afraid of using technical terms from Greek, like subjective genitive. But overall, when he is dealing at that level with the Greek, he clearly lays out what those things mean. For example, when looking at Col 1:24, "I am filling up in my flesh that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ," he spends two pages working through the implications of how you take "of Christ." This is a contentious phrase in the commentaries, and he does a good job of showing what is at stake in the discussion.

On thing I appreciated was the application section. He always includes a number of ways that the text should be applied to our lives. The application section made good points, but could have used a little more. Honestly, this is probably the weakest part of the commentary.

As I was preaching through Colossians, I would usually start my study with Moo and then go to Pao. In the early going, I found this pretty tedious because Moo and Pao's exegesis is nearly identical. You really only need one or the other. By the end of the series, I was appreciating the other aspects of this commentary which I believe make it superior to Moo. I would recommend also having O'Brien, since he gives a different exegetical take on a number of key points, and Garland who provides a very strong application. I think with those three commentaries you could do quite well.

Colossians, Philemon (NIV Application Commentary)
Colossians, Philemon (NIV Application Commentary)
by David E. Garland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.93
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5.0 out of 5 stars Most helpful commentary for pastors, August 5, 2015
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NIVAC is a very uneven series with some strong contributions and some that are pretty weak. Garland is absolutely top notch - perhaps the best in the whole series. Others have complained about the format of the book, but this is simply the approach this series takes. Each section of text is divided three parts:
* Original Meaning - this is what you normally expect from an exegetical commentary, a basic explanation of the text. Garland is concerned mostly with explaining his position and spends little time investigating other exegetical options.
* Bridging Contexts - how do we relate the message to the original audience to the situation we find ourselves in. For example, slavery in an important topic in both Colossians and Philemon, but we have a very different situation today than they did. How do we make that understandable to the congregation?
* Application - how can we take the message of the original texts and apply them to our modern lives?

The original meaning sections were fine - I don't recall any issues with them - but the bridging contexts and applications are where this commentary most shines. Other comments on here seem to not like this part of the commentary, but I found it pure gold. The more technical commentaries like Moo and O'Brien are outstanding for really diving into the text, but they offer nothing to help a pastor carry that into a message for the congregation. The twenty page "bridging context" in Philemon explaining Greco-Roman slavery were worth the price of the book themselves.

Having just finished a sermon series on Colossians, my suggestion would be to get O'Brien, Moo, or Pao (I used all three) to work through the original meaning of the text (especially some very difficult issues in Colossians), and use this commentary for some thoughts on how to make these texts relevant to our modern listeners.

The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary)
The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary)
by Douglas J. Moo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $34.40
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding exegesis of tough Greek, August 5, 2015
Moo is perhaps the gold standard for exegesis of the tricky letter to the Colossians, a letter with a lot of difficult issues. Moo works through them clearly, generally presenting all of the exegetical options and then explaining why he prefers one over the others. His writing is crisp, and although this is a serious academic work which expects at least familiarity with Greek terminology, it never feels bogged down. For one who really wants to get into the original meaning of the text, you'll be hard pressed to do better.

There were two primary concerns I had with this commentary. First, there is no hint of application at any point. Moo is explaining the original meaning, but offers no thoughts about how these ideas apply to the modern Christian. Therefore, most will probably want to have at least one companion resource that aims in that direction, especially if looking for teaching this book from the pulpit or in Sunday school. Secondly, and perhaps this is just me ... the commentary often feels like an infomercial for TNIV, which frankly got wearisome. Moo was on the TNIV translation commitee, so it's no surprise that he favors it (NIV 2011 did not exist when this commentary was writte).

Having just completed a sermon series on Colossians, my thoughts were that this is a great resource, but I found as I was getting further into the series that I found myself using Moo less, with Pao and Garland becoming my go-to resources.

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition
by Frederick W. Danker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $146.66
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5.0 out of 5 stars Crucial Resource for those who want to understand the New Testament, July 7, 2015
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There just is no comparison. I got by for a long time using the lexicon in the back of my UBS 4th edition or using the free lexicons included with Bibleworks. The fact is, words are funny things ... they have a range of meanings that a simple glossary cannot cover. BDAG provides a clear analysis of every word in the NT and the early Christian Fathers. Each word generally has a definition in bold type followed by a one word gloss for the word in bold italics. The formatting is very helpful for finding the verse you are looking for under the range of options. I use it all the time, and it helps my understanding of the New Testament tremendously.

If I could change anything, I would do two things. First, I would have a brief explanation in the introduction showing how the entries in the dictionary work. Things are very heavily abbreviated and honestly, I still don't understand some of what I'm looking at. Thankfully that is all in regular print ... the bold print lets me find the things that are important for my purposes very quickly. The second thing is the Greek font used for the entries. I hate the phi and rho! Blech! Within the definitions themselves, the font is much more traditional and far more attractive.

Finally, this is a lexicon. I highly recommend getting NIDNTTE ( as an accompaniment. That will explain the theological significance attached to the words in question.

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