Reading Records

Immanuel in Our Place by Tremper Longman III

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Last year I had the fortune of taking two Old Testament classes from one of the most prestigious scholars in the field and the author of this book.  Immanuel in Our Place is a book looking at the Sacred elements of the Israelite’s worship in the Old Testament.  Tremper reviews the set aside spaces, acts and how these connect to the Christian understanding of faith and worship.

Theologically it is an excellent book.  I know for me personally I struggled with hearing about the Jewish worship and teachings of the Old Testament and having a hard time figure out why every Jew wasn’t a follower of Christ.  This book 1) helped me bring that in perspective and 2) enlightened me on what items were not.  The descriptions and structure is also very easy to understand even if one has no knowledge of Jewish practices.  It’s also a reasonable length so good for a plane ride or a vacation read.

Practical wise–Tremper provides not only questions at the end of chapters for a study group format, but also travels through each “sacred” element first through the Hebrew Bible Narrative and then through the Christian narrative.  One can see the importance for Christians of understanding Israel’s understanding of the Sacred and it also helps explains the important of Christ’s salvation & work.

Definitely check it out!

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Red Moon Rising by Pete Greig & Dave Roberts

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My junior year of college after I returned from a semester in England, the Christian Fellowship group I was a part of went on a 10 day Prayer journey to munich.  As part of the group, it was recommended we read this book about the beginnings of the 24-7 prayer movement.  I can honestly say that his book changed my life–my perception of prayer, how it works and what really builds a community.  In fact, I help operate a 24-7 prayer room for 2 different weeks in a main street storefront.  Anyways,I wanted to express my deepest desire to recommend this book to anyone struggling with a church community.  I know personally, for me, it gave me both an outlet for my frustrations with the institutionalized church and yet help me strength my faith to help me love that same church and work with them even more.

The book begins with the author’s receiving a call from God to help the struggling church in Europe as it is crumbling slowly and losing members daily mostly to misconceptions and lack of life.  Greig and Roberts begin on a long, sometimes joyful sometimes painful road of building up what would eventually become the 24-7 prayer movement.  Today, this movement has merged into forming community church groups called “Boiler Rooms” built around the community prayer rooms.  The story is truly God-filled and amazing to read. I could not put down the book.  There are some moments I questioned the validity of what happened, but if you want to see where they are today, check the 24-7prayer website.

 

Exodus & Revolution by Michael Walzer

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As school season begins, the required reading reviews will begin to appear.  This quarter should be thoroughly interesting, as I will be taking German 101 (independent study) , Christian Ethics and World Religions through Christian Perspective (name could be better there but with the books I already have I’m willing to accept a more loving approach.)

This book, Exodus & Revolution is about the relationship between the biblical story of the Exodus (including from the Book Exodus through the arrival into the Promised Land at the end of Deuteronomy) and similarities it holds with political revolution. Walzer sticks mostly to the Biblical story and the Israelite people–what it means to be “in bondage in Egypt”, what the covenant and the story of the idol calf in the wilderness and how they can apply to a modern revolution.

From a theological standpoint–I love this book.  Walzer makes just enough of a connection not to disturb anyone but yet makes a strong enough stance to point out how the exodus story relates to the world’s history of revolution.  He admits he will not be able to fully review all revolutions, but he provides enough examples, first and third world, good and bad.  For example, he looks at Lenin’s response in Russia and the similarities and the purging Moses preforms after the Golden Calf.  He also discusses that just because someone sets you free doesn’t mean you do not have responsibilities and moral law.

Arguably the best part of the book is Walzer’s discussion about covenant.  Only recently did I discover the importance of an Ancient Near Eastern treaty and its similarities to the covenant God makes with the people of Israel in the wilderness.  It is not the first (see Abraham & Noah) nor will it be the last (see David.) But God’s covenant with his people provides the support for even the idea of revolution–that commitment and faith in the Lord can set you free.

Another positive regarding this book is its length.  Honestly, in theology and social sciences, there are too many 500-1000 page books.  Most people, in fact most theologians do not need every details every time a book comes out.  This book is less than 200 pages (including glossary and notes) with informative yet simplistic vocabulary. I highly recommend this book for ministers, seminary students and even lay people!

The God File, A Novel by Frank Turner Hollon (no spoilers)

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A long time ago in a … wait a minute.  J/K; One summer I decided to get a job at Barnes and Noble. I loved reading (admittedly) and wanted to get more into reading all kinds of books, not the just the occasion recommendation.  At B&N, they have a section called “Discover: New Writers” where maybe local or new upcoming writers get their chances to show off their stuff.  That is how I came across one of my most beloved books: The God File.

The story is about a man thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. He states from the beginning that his goal is to create evidence that God exists.  And not in the “happy ever after” stories where the man with a decent job gets cancer and has a huge support system that eventually helps him go into remission and become “cured.” No-Gabriel Black is going to search for God where he is–prison.  With the problems, enemies, the frustrations that come along with being placed in prisoner for something you did not do wrong.

My original copy is hardback, which I prefer in this case, because if gives you the feeling you have sheets of paper in a hard file, which is the way the book is set up. Chapters are short, there is a brief introduction in the beginning to give you the setting and each chapter is a description of Gabriel’s description of why that topic is included in his God File.  There are duplicates along with some “choice language (I would not let anyone under 14 read this) and a conclusion that, well, is interesting. (I try not to provide spoilers so you can read!)

I highly recommend this book. It’s short–only 147 pages give or take a page for publishing.  You can read it in a two hour flight.  It’s definitely deep and good to have on a reader’s shelf.

different cover now, but click to check out on amazon!

Divergent by Veronica Roth (No Spoilers)

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Occasionally, for my book reviews I think I will search back into “completed” section of my bookshelf.  There are several good books I have read over the years with interesting story plots and much deeper than cover indicates meanings that I personally EVERYONE should read.  Yes, I will try & include books I normall would not choose…that might happened more when school starts or when I finally get back to the book group at church. (which I also recommend to anyone who reads…join a book group!)

Anyways, I was recommended this book from a friend at work.  I was reading through the Hunger Games books when she said if I liked those I should check out this new author.  So I picked up a copy.  And I could not put it down.  If  you like Hunger Games, enjoyed reading the Giver as a kid, honestly this is a book for you, at any age.

The book tells the story about a young girl coming of age. Yet, in her society, everyone is divided into factions and when they reach the appropriate age, you are placed in the faction that you will live in the rest of your life.  Each faction handles different aspects of society and you conform to that group’s duties.  Even if it is different from the group you grew up in.  Honestly, because I don’t want to reveal too much about the book, I will leave the plot summary to that.

In regards to the writing–it is fantastic.  Roth writes with clarity and definition–that you can picture exactly what she is trying to describe in every scene.  The book flows very well, jumps right into the story from the beginning and doesn’t leave you begging for interaction by the last chapter.  I do saw, it is part of the trilogy, so when you finish, you want to pick up the next book, for sure.

Overall: 5 stars, but must be a fiction reader and let your imagination take you where Roth writers!

click book to amazon link

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

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Pages: 525 (everything… so more like under 500 reading) published in 1994 originally. Keep this in mind as some of the technology has advanced massively. Maybe for the 20th anniversary there will be an update with that.

Moving into more linguistic books, this is probably the next most important book that someone should read if studying Linguistics.  It is another topic at the cutting edge of linguistic study.  Pinker believes that language is a human instinct.  He travels into each aspect of linguistics starting with.Syntax and and moving through etymology.  He also indicates that there are some basic inheritant understandings that help define why we park on driveways and drive on parkways.  It is a jam-packed book filled with stories about how language is crated and adapted over time–something unique to explore and to understand. Pinker also includes chapters about phonetics, how speech with works with language and what is known up to the time of publishing about how the brain, language and speech all work together.

The book is a little daunting.  It is not meant for the “lay” reader  and definitely directed towards adults. In fact, I would consider it more for a classroom, as there are sets of text that are more formatted for such structure than for “casual” reading.  (of course your definition of causal reading may include university level text books, who knows?)  There is SOO much material to go through, all related just lots of information.  It would be comparable to get a history and development of AIDS research because its extensive, involves a lot of everyday “unnoticed” actions as well as very medically detailed descriptions.  However, in no way is the topic depressing or disappointing–its interesting to think of how different accents even provide rules and guidelines of how to say “ride’ and “write.”

Overall, 4 stars. Unique material, plenty of information, easy to understand but still an overwhelming amount of details.

The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought by Rabbi Itzhak Shapira

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pages: 335, with glossary, recommendations for related books and even a couple sleeves for notes.
Book on Amazon

Warning: This book is not for the everyday average reader, let alone the average Christian (if there is such a thing.)  Though I argue that this is an excellent book, filled with a plethora of information and details beyond your wildest dreams– a lot of the information goes well above a reader’s head , dealing with traditional rabbinical views, jewish thought & jewish theology that are well beyond the scoop of a “normal read.”

But despite that warning–this book is very intriguing.  It is written by a messianic rabbi *see author above* who discusses how he grew up in  Jewish community in Israel and wants to point from a Jewish prescriptive proof that Jesus was the Messiah found within the Scriptures.  He uses traditional jewish defense and refers to several rabbinical texts to provide proof of his argument about Yeshua (Jesus–he specifically uses this term as he wants to distinguish in this book the Jewish aspects.)

Again I want to emphasize there is A LOT of information in this book. Rabbi Shapira provides several examples of how rabbis interpret certain Messianic scripture, record discussions about the authority, teachings and definition of how Jesus is the claimed Messiah of the Scriptures.  He even refers to rabbis that state truths but then sacrifice their teachings for human agreements to dispute Messianic claims.

There are some claims that go a little beyond standardized thinking… discussions about jewish numerology (there is another term for this but I figured I would simplify it) and how certain messianic affiliated verses add up to the same figured and (as the author argues) gives more support to Jesus as the Messiah.  Thought I do not argue against Jesus as Messiah… I do not think you need every little ounce of defense, including the mystical aspects of belief.  Interesting…but not necessary.

Otherwise, this is an excellent, well documented and informed book about the Messiah in Jewish thought.  Thought it was not written for most believers, I do think any believer could benefit from a reading of this book.