Tag Archive for 'Review'

Book Review: 90 Days Thru the Bible

90-days-through-the-bible90 Days Thru the Bible: A Devotional Journey from Walk Thru the Bible by Chris Tiegreen

This book is for people who have read at least some of the Bible in the past and know some of the very basic ideas of Christianity, and terms we use and find in the Bible. I think anyone who is other than a brand new Christian or advanced theologian could benefit from it.

In the Introduction, the author writes about how “The pages of many Bibles are ruffled in predictable spots and pristine in equally predictable spots.” I’ve seen people chuckle at this regarding their own Bible, but I think it’s a pretty serious indictment on how low of a view many people have of the book that they claim to base their life on.

Tiegreen stresses how important it is to read the whole thing, but I don’t think he does this enough. I think it should be emphasized how imperative it is to read the whole Bible and not just use this book as ‘Cliff’s Notes for the Bible’, which I would be afraid that many people would. The reason I write this is because he does such a good job at summarizing the Bible and meeting his objective of the book being “an overview, but it’s designed to go much deeper than that–more like admiring the beauty of each piece of a puzzle and contemplating how it contributes to the whole picture. In the process, we will encounter the major characters, events, and themes of the Bible and discover a divine flow that connect them all.”

As he does this, it becomes inconsistent in how he goes about it–sometimes just writing an overview, sometimes giving Scripture references as “takeaways”, sometimes providing application for today, etc. This may not be a bad thing. Not every book of the Bible is consistent with each other either, and it may be the variety some people need. At the same time, the book is in a very pleasing and easy to read flowing narrative style, without information presented using bulleted lists, tables, etc.

I also wonder if someone would be wanting to add to their reading if they’re reading the Bible in 90 days. Why 90 days? This overview could be used with any reading plan. As it turns out, he does have a book titled The One Year Walk with God Devotional: 365 Daily Bible Readings to Transform Your Mind and at 720 pages (this one is 256), would give him more time to develop his objective plus it’s extremely highly rated. This may sound cynical, but it seems that it has become popular for publishers to put out condensed or abridged versions of other books. In this case that would be counter-intuitive though, because someone who would want to read the Bible in 90 days (I wonder how many people really will–cynical again) wouldn’t shy away from the 720 page book. I have no idea of the content of the other one.

I think the strength of this book, other than him doing a good job of what he set out to do, are the chapters on the Gospels. The author does a great job of describing what each one is focused on and it gives the reader a great picture of the differences between them.

He also gives a sense of the chronology when weaving through the various books which we know aren’t in chronological order of events.

I think this is a very good book, even if inconsistent and this reviewer wondering why a 90 day version was put out after a denser 365 day book. If you are looking for a good, short synopsis of the true story of Scripture, no matter your reading plan, this would be a good choice.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a free copy of this book for the purpose of my unbiased review.

Find it at:
Amazon.com

Review: Syma S107 Remote Control Helicopter

Syma S107 Remote Control HelicopterI was asked to put a banner ad on my site (which I wouldn’t do for something unrelated to the subject matter of this blog) or review a remote control toy sold by xenonproject.com. I don’t normally respond when someone asks for posting content of something that’s off topic from this blog.  But I’ve been wanting to try a remote control helicopter for a few years now. I chose to review the S107G Mini Gyro 3 Channel Helicopter by Syma, which they sent to me free of charge for this review. I hope this one time you’ll allow me to take a rare departure from the main objective of this blog, Christianity, and have some fun in a different way. If you are coming here from a Google search and want to see what Christianity is about, please see Christianity Explored and feel free to explore this site.

This helicopter is the smallest in their line and is made for indoor use only. Even being too close to a slight breeze from a fan or a furnace register can throw it off. The cost is $25 plus shipping, which is inexpensive, but as you’ll see, it’s not cheap. It’s 5 inches long, 2 inches wide and three inches high but seems much bigger, probably because of the blades.

The flying time is about 6 minutes which could be seen as a plus or minus. The rechargeable battery (included within the helicopter but is replaceable) needs to be small because of how small the helicopter is, which also keeps it affordable. This makes it good for taking breaks when working in your home office, having fun with the kids or just learning how to fly yourself. Time isn’t wasted playing video games for hours on end. The helicopter is recharged via USB on your computer and takes a maximum of 30 minutes. There is a red light in the USB connector that turns on when the recharging is complete.

There are only two negatives I can find with this product. The remote control uses six AA batteries, which is an awkward number for those of us who use rechargeable batteries, in addition to being of a lot of batteries, especially since they’re not included.

The other is aesthetics. The plastic gears and metal sides of the helicopter are visible. It would be nice to have a panel covering them, but again this would add weight, reduce flying time and increase cost, so I’m certainly willing to live with that. You will see this in the photographs I shot below.

On to the good stuff. Flying this is great. Once I learned that the up lever on the remote needs to be turned up harder than I would have thought to get it up and flying, it’s fairly easy to get it going. That doesn’t mean you will be able to do figure eights in a day but you’ll be taking off and landing, hopefully without crashing much or at all. Start out slow.

This is a 3 channel helicopter which includes left/right, up/down, hovering and landing movements.  It can spin around while hovering and move up or down while turning at the same time, with smooth, stepless controls on the remote–up/down only with the left lever and 360 degrees motion with varying speeds (distance from center to outer edge) with the right lever. There is also a button to turn if the helicopter wants to turn either to the right or to the left (after crashing?) so it’s possible to have it fly in place without moving at all, which enabled me to take those pictures while it’s flying–one hand holding the remote and the other hand holding the camera using autofocus and flash bounced off the ceiling.

Flying is something that takes a lot of practice, which is part of what makes it fun. I try to improve one notch each time I fly it. As a person who struggles with chronic depression, one of the rules learned right away is to do something fun every day. This can be one of those things. The improvement in learning how to fly it better each day makes it something to look forward to. The video shown below is something I aspire to and will take quite a bit of practice to be able to master. The most difficult part is when the helicopter is facing you–the remote control stick needs to be moved to the right to move the helicopter to your left (its right).

Regarding crashing–I don’t want to overstate this, but I’ve had some bad crashes and it has come out just fine. The reason I’m hesitant to overemphasize this is because an important part could very well break at any time, for all I know. I just want to be careful in what I say. Fortunately they have 18 replacement parts for virtually the whole thing. But its durability is very impressive, probably due to the metal body, quality construction and light weight. Edit: From what I’ve read, the rear rotor might be the most fragile. You can find it for about $5 including shipping.

Here are some pictures taken while flying it in our living room. There is a light on the under side of the front of the helicopter that flashes between red and blue when it’s turned on. You can see this best in the video they provide at their site at the bottom of this page.

The little square you see in the metal just below the yellow part on the side of the helicopter is the proprietary USB outlet. You can see the light in the front is blue here. In the second picture you can see a very small ON/OFF switch in the same spot on the other side and the light in the front is red. Click on a picture to see a larger one.

Photo of S107 Flying

Picture of the S107 Flying

I had the opportunity to email customer support and they were very friendly and helpful.

I would highly recommend this helicopter. I would like to look in on some of the enthusiasts out there and see what types of maneuvers I can work on. I’ll try not to look at the higher end helicopters which can have cameras mounted on them. Maybe someday.

If this is too small or the wrong color or the wrong vehicle for your tastes, there are a slew of other options at their site.

Where to buy:

Note: I suggest buying these from a reputable dealer like xenonproject.com because there are fakes out there including some sold through Amazon who is selling fakes sold by Planet Stuff. Be sure you know you’re buying the genuine Syma because from what I’ve read, it makes a big difference.

Christianity Explored

Colossians and Philemon by Michael F. Bird

I love the book of Colossians and there are and will be quite a few more commentaries coming out on this. Someday after I’ve done some other things like looking further into the OT and reading more of Calvin I’d like to study Colossians as in-depth as I can.

If you’re interested and haven’t seen it, here is a review by Review by David Schrock at The Gospel Coalition Reviews of a commentary/exposition of Colossians and Philemon by Michael F. Bird

I’m still a little dizzy about the back surgery thing and haven’t been posting as much lately.

Software Review: BibleWorks 8 – Part 3 of 3

BibleWorks Logo

Miscellaneous Helpful Features in BibleWorks

The Command Line alone is a wondrous thing. So many different types of searches can be performed that I can’t think of much of anything that couldn’t be done. There is an extensive Help file page devoted to the Command Line. In English, any number of searches can be performed and for geeks, regular expressions can be used.

An example of a more complex search would be:
(/grac* faith*).5(/law* work*)

would give you:
a form of “grac…” OR “faith…” AND a form of “law…” OR “work…” within 5 verses

There is also a more user friendly Command Line Assistant and plenty of examples. For even more complex searches that the Command Line can’t do there is the Graphical Search Engine.

A number of Greek syntax searches can be done. You could search for all verbs within a range of verses, narrow that down to first person singular and/or plural, or any number of other syntactical searches.

Which Version Uses that Word?
Do you or have you used more than one translation in your life? Do you sometimes try to find a word or phrase that you are certain is in the Bible, but cannot remember which translation has it? BibleWorks can help you find a word or phrase even if you cannot remember which translation contains it.”

Vocabulary Flashcards
You can find vocabulary sets for Hebrew and Greek including Greek sets from Croy (a book I’m going through), Mounce, Black and others. These include sound files with a choice of Erasmian Greek or thankfully, modern pronunciation! I don’t use Erasmian and if I want to hear something pronounced I would rather hear something closer to what I use.

The Synopsis Window helps you to find predefined parallel Gospel passages, places where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament and parallel passages in the Old Testament. Another feature that helps you find similar information but wider in scope is the Related Verses Tool. When choosing a Greek morphology version, it will automatically remove words of lesser importance like contractions, articles, etc. In the example below you can see that I clicked on the verse in Isaiah in the middle window and it shows up in the right window.

bw-related-verses-tool
Click for a larger image.

Search and Display Favorites
You can create favorite lists of translations to display when doing a search. I have a main favorite (which I named f1), one for the Old Testament (which will display a Hebrew Bible that can be linked to a lexicon), one that displays mainly formal (more literal) translations, one that displays mainly dynamic and paraphrases etc.

bw-version-favorites
Click for a larger image.

What I would like to see in BibleWorks

  • A popular paraphrase translation like The Message or the Good News Bible (for occasional comparison)
  • I was a little disappointed in the section on A Brief Description of Major English Translations. Only a few of the translations were given descriptions and outdated terms like word-for-word are used for some translations. I know it’s “brief” but it would be nice to see that updated and expanded. I was hoping to find more information on each translation included in the program all in one place. Maybe this is asking a bit much.
  • Some functions require going down a couple menu items in order to perform it. For example, to uncheck all boxes of verses that appear in the Search Window results, you must right click and go down two menus in order to uncheck all the boxes. I would think there could be a button or keyboard shortcut for something like this, although there are a lot of keyboard shortcuts for many functions within the program. I would also like to see custom toolbars where a new toolbar can be created with buttons for functions that are frequently used. This would be a major task for the software developers since there are so many functions in the program. But I have seen this done with high end graphics programs and it greatly speeds up the process.
  • Commentaries by Gill, Clarke and a few others that can be found for e-Sword

Regarding commentaries: An advantage of using BibleWorks is that when displaying a verse in the Browse window, you will find all of the resources available pertaining to that verse in the Resources window. When looking at a commentary, it will not only give you a link to the commentary for that verse, but also links for every other instance that verse is mentioned in the whole commentary.

bw-commentary
Click for a larger image.

Ease of Use

The learning curve is as shallow or as steep as you’d like to make it. The box that the CDs come in has a 16 page Quick-Start Guide for guiding you through installation and basic functions. That, along with right clicking and pressing F1 everywhere in the program, and going through all of the menu items at the top of the program will show you most of what the program has to offer.

Going from the Command Line/Results window on the left, to the Browse window in the middle and to the Analysis window at the right is intuitive and easy to navigate.

If you’d like to go deeper into exegesis, sermon preparation, etc. the aforementioned Performing Common Tasks in BibleWorks will guide you through only what you need to know.

If you are like me and like to read owner’s manuals you will be greatly rewarded by going through the whole help file system. You won’t remember everything you read because of the program’s vast capabilities, but you will know what every function of the program does and you can go back and relearn whatever is necessary when the time comes.

There is also their official BibleWorks User Forums where I’ve gotten quick replies to a couple of questions I had that don’t fall under the area of technical support.

I hope that gives you a glimpse of just some of the things that this software can do and help you with making a decision in which Bible software to purchase.

Software Review: BibleWorks 8 – Part 2 of 3

BibleWorks Logo

Installation

I had a problem installing the software on my desktop computer. I quickly found this helpful post on their forum:
What Do I Do if the Installation Stalls at Disc x?
My CD drive died a while ago and I replaced it with an ancient one that a friend gave me. This most likely caused the problem. After following the instructions I got it installed. Installing it on the laptop was no problem. Be sure to choose custom installation and choose the languages you want to install and whether or not you want sound, videos and maps depending on the size of your hard drive. I strongly recommend the instructional videos.

I also had a glitch in applying a program update. I was unable to fix this on my own so I wrote to their e-mail tech support and got the problem resolved. They also offer toll free phone support and they have a forum of BibleWorks users for various other questions you may have.

Learning BibleWorks

The software comes with copious help files which are in sort of a two tiered system. First there is the Getting Started section which includes Performing Common Tasks in BibleWorks. The tasks listed are Major Tasks, Analyzing Bible Text, Displaying Bible Text and Reference Works, and Miscellaneous Tasks.

Under Major Tasks you will find “Getting Started” (redundant?), Preparing a Book Study, Preparing a Topical Study, Preparing an Exegetical Paper, Using BibleWorks in the Classroom, Using BibleWorks for Bible Translation Projects, Using BibleWorks and Only English Bibles, and Performing New Testament Textual Criticism.

As an example, Prepare an Exegetical Paper guides you through the steps required, not just BibleWorks features but a description of how to actually do exegesis, and even provides a bibliography of printed works on the subjects involved. Although there is a separate category for textual criticism in the Help file system, it’s also included in this section and is something I was previously unable to do on my own. If the videos are installed, you can find links (within the program) to videos of some of the tasks described which will show you basic procedures along with the text description.

Then there is a main Help section which has the usual index, search etc. The index is organized in such a way that you can progressively go through each item in order to learn how to use every function in the program.

The BibleWorks Blog (unofficial) is a helpful resource not only for the blog but for the additional resources listed across the top of the page. For example, you can find Calvin’s commentaries on the Modules page and a great tutorial on using Louw-Nida on the Tutorials page.

Software Review: BibleWorks 8 – Part 1 of 3

BibleWorks Logo

A huge thanks goes to Jim Barr at BibleWorks for sending a review copy of BibleWorks 8.

As a preface to this review: I do not have any other commercial Bible software or a previous version of BibleWorks so I won’t be able to make any comparisons. I am an avid e-Sword user and was going to write about why it might be worth it to upgrade to BibleWorks. When I found out that BibleWorks has more features than I could ever imagine, I scrapped that idea. e-Sword is a great program, and not just for the price (free, with additional paid add-ons) but it’s not comparable to BibleWorks.

I will say that for pastors, students and Bible translators, this software in my estimation will save a lot of time. It will make sermon preparation and writing papers go much faster, leaving more time for other duties or studying. For lay people, it depends on your budget and how far you like to go with Bible study. I can’t imagine anyone with the budget for it being disappointed.

Just buying all the translations, books and other reference materials alone would cost far more than the software. To have them not only within the program but all linked to the passage, verse or word you’re studying at lightning fast speed makes it all the more valuable. There are quite a few Hebrew and Greek grammar books like Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics included in the program. I assumed that these were just for reading but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the contents of the books are linked to original language words–so you can learn more about the syntax of a word you’re studying–as is nearly everything else within BibleWorks.

Although one of the strengths of BibleWorks is in working with the original languages, it has so many features for working with English only translations and text that it would be worth the price of the program for this alone. Even if you do work with the original languages, I would suggest starting out with Using BibleWorks and Only English Bibles in the Help file system under Getting Started – Major Tasks.

In this review I would like to write about installing and learning to use the program, highlight a few features that are of interest to me and show you some screenshots in Part 3. See the Full Contents (and capabilities) and their brochure (PDF file) for a feature list.

Book Review: New Testament Exegesis by Gordon Fee

New Testament Exegesis by Gordon Fee New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors by Gordon D. Fee

What is exegesis as defined by Fee?

“The term exegesis is used in this book in a consciously limited sense to refer to the historical investigation into the meaning of the biblical text. The presupposition lying behind this task is that the biblical books had ‘authors’ and ‘readers,’ and that the authors intended their readers to understand what they wrote (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 5:9-11; 1 John 2:1; see the Appendix). Exegesis therefore answers the question, What did the biblical author mean? It has to do both with what he said (the content itself) and why he said it at any given point (the literary context)–as much as that might be discovered, given our distance in time, language, and culture. Furthermore, exegesis is primarily concerned with intentionality: What did the author intend his original readers to understand?”

This book is for those very serious about exegesis. It’s very broad, but accessible for any student, pastor or anyone serious about studying the Bible.

Although the book was originally written 20 years ago, it has stood the test of time and has been revised in both the 2nd and current 3rd edition to keep it very up to date.

Is it necessary to know Greek to utilize the book?

This is addressed in the Preface to the first edition but also in the Introduction to the 3rd edition:

“A final word to those who use only the English Bible. First, you need to take heart that you can learn to do exegesis as well as anyone else. Knowing Greek gives one obvious advantages in several matters of detail. But the person without Greek who is willing to do a bit of extra work can enter into the full joys of this discipline. You must take seriously the need to learn the Greek alphabet; that will give you direct access to most of the better tools, especially when it comes to the study of words.”

For those who do know Greek the book goes in-depth into using Greek as part of exegesis.

By taking a look at the Amazon link you can “Search inside this book” and start with the Table of Contents to get a good overview of what’s covered.

Fee mentions a wide array of resources for research related to each step. Bibliographic material is mentioned within each chapter in addition to a whole chapter devoted to the material, based on category.

One could easily spend over $2000 on these books which may be a little overwhelming for some. For those without an extensive library of their own, the help of a public library or even at the minimum—the internet, a couple of good study Bibles and a couple of in-depth commentaries covering the passage you will be exegeting—one could get by and do most of the things outlined in the book.

Also overwhelming is the sheer number of steps required in the first chapter, many of which are explained in the second chapter. This is geared to a student who will be writing a paper on a passage of Scripture. The third chapter abbreviates the steps for pastors who have approximately ten hours a week to prepare a sermon.

I thought it would be helpful if the steps in chapter three were directly correlated to the steps in the first two chapters.

It’s important for everyone to carefully read the whole book. For English only readers, reading the portions related to Greek are still valuable. For students, the chapter for pastors is important for remembering application, prayer and reflection so that it doesn’t become only an academic exercise. Pastors will want to be very familiar with the first two chapters so they can tailor the steps to their needs with Fee’s guidance as outlined in the third chapter.

The Appendix, new to the third edition, explains what Reader-Response Criticism is, how popular this has become and how dangerous it is. I see it everywhere and this is not a good thing.

Personal notes:
As noted in the review, the number of steps involved can be overwhelming for a neophyte exegetor. As I was first reading the book I was wondering when the steps would finally come to an end. But once I got through all the steps and read the abbreviated portion for pastors, I could see how I can make it all work. I’m not using the pastor’s chapter as a way to do less work. (I would rather spend more time exegeting and not have to try to write a sermon. Now that’s hard work.) I went through the whole book and wrote down the steps that I can do—not knowing much Greek—along with page numbers and topics so that I can go through it one step at a time. Baby steps.

Another blogger bought this book for me which was on my Amazon Wish List. As one with a small library and small budget, I can’t say how much this is appreciated.

Paperback: 195 pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 3rd edition (March 2002)
ISBN-10: 0664223168
ISBN-13: 978-0664223168
Book Cover Design: Really cool

Buy it at:

Brief NLT Study Bible Observations

I won this from commenting on the NLT blog. I was very surprised to get mine this early. Thank you very much to Tyndale.

The dust cover has been removed for these photos. I think they could have done without it. Having the design on the hardcover looks very nice and is similar to what the BECNT and NIVAC commentaries do for example.

NLTSB

The pages are very thin and there is quite a bit of bleed through compared to what I’m used to. I wouldn’t mind if the Bible was 15% thicker with heavier paper but I’m sure even more people would then complain about how the Bible is too heavy and thick. Since it’s a study Bible I think this is just fine and it’s not bad enough to reduce readability. I would trust the publisher knows what people want and struck the right balance. The photo below shows the NIV Thompson Chain Reference Bible and a typical pew Bible so you can see that it’s relatively compact.

NLTSB

I have two other very minor gripes.

The red letter text isn’t quite consistent in color saturation level from page to page. When it’s darker and more saturated it’s easier to read. Maybe in subsequent printings this will be taken care of. Most people probably won’t even notice this. (Sorry I pointed it out.) Of course this could be easily fixed by not having red letters! But we won’t belabor that point.

In the Hebrew and Greek Word Studies, transliterations of the Hebrew and Greek are used without the actual Hebrew and Greek words being shown. I’ve learned the Greek alphabet and would like to see the actual Greek words in addition to the phonetic English transliteration of the underlying word. I look forward to using this feature in any case.

NLTSB

One of my favorite features at first perusal are the Theme Notes. I call them little surprises. They pop up here and there and they’re like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get. For example, in the middle of Ezekiel you’ll find God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. These are usually a few paragraphs at the most and include Scripture references to the left of the text. This can be seen on page 5 of the NLT Study Bible Features Guide (PDF file) in the lower left.

For a list of reviews please see the NLT Study Bible Reviews Roundup page.