Home » Articles posted by drtnicholson

Author Archives: drtnicholson

End of Me: A Review

In his normal casual, approachable manner, Kyle Idleman has yet another literary success. End of Me combines real life examples, applicable interpretation, and clear analogies to help Christians overcome their own limitations, so they can have a better relationship with Jesus Christ. 
One of the strengths of all of Idlemans books is his ability to mix personal and real life examples to help the audience have well-developed understanding of the topic. These examples range from Idlemans own life, to the lives of his friends, to examples that he has been given through social media and his web site. The advantage that this approach offers is that it both makes it easier to understand the position of the book and its relevance on the listeners lives. For instance, when Idleman talks about what we fill our lives with, he gives an array of situations that people frequently find themselves in, an explanation how they might arrive at that situation, and the dangers connected with that situation. 
A unique quality of much of Idlemans writing is that he gives a narrative interpretation of traditional stories and parables that helps his audience see both the characters and their circumstances in the light of the books topic. He does a great job of walking the listeners through a story so that they can see both the application on the social relevance of what he is saying. For example, his interpretation of the woman cleaning the feet of Jesus, while going well beyond the actual story, offers several important insights into first century Jewish life, customs, and values. Idleman is clear, and regularly reminds the audience, that these interpretations are just his own creation and that he uses them to help give greater clarity and context. 

Perhaps the most pervasive element of this book, and Idlemans writing as a whole, is how he can connect the common place and biblical truths through his use of analogy. He offers his listeners new perspectives in a way that is both accessible and comprehensive. For instance he analogizes the example of the potters hand (seen both in Jeremiah and Isaiah) not only to the remaking of our lives, but to actual pottery that gains value only after it is broken. The authors analogies put the stories in stark contrast with traditional social values which allows the audience to see well known verses in a new light. 

Idleman is quickly establishing himself as one of the premiere Christian writers not simply through his unerring depth of study, but because of his ability to break down complex ideas into digestible bites for todays questioning (and sometimes stubborn) society. 

A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

Advertisements

The Truth About Lies: A Review 

Tim Chaddick, co-author of the highly successful book Better: How Jesus Satisfies the Search for Meaning, again captures readers with a contemporary book that deals with a universal theme that touches our daily lives: The Truth About Lies. In his newest book, Chaddick explores this crucial topic with both wit and scholarship in a way that is easily approachable by the average reader. Although there is room to grow for this budding author, Chaddick presents a work that is sure to both bless and benefit many of his readers.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Chaddick is his author’s voice. He uses a blend of humor, personal experience, and clear tone to make the readers feel like they are in a conversation more than a lecture. Too often, authors are so busy with their rapid fire proof-texting that they don’t take time to create a good, narrative voice. While there’d nothing wrong with having abundant support, Chaddick demonstrates that in can be integrated into the narrative without overwhelming the listener.

By focusing on one or two stories in a chapter, Chaddick is able to demonstrate his points clearly. For instance, when he talks about how lies affect our daily lives, he picks two stories from David’s life: the story of Goliath and the story of Bathsheba. By offering two clear counterpoints, the author is able to not only show two extremes in Christian life, but also draw parallels that make the listener see the danger of lies in a different light.

Structurally, Chaddick has mixed results. His individual chapters are excellent. Not only are they clear and consistent, but also they are broken down into sections that make the overall message of the chapter clear. By doing this, the author allows the listeners to process big ideas by letting them see the individual parts of that idea and how they work together. The chapters read like well-written sermons. The downside of this is that the book reads like each chapter could (and should) be on its own – like a sermon set or a conference with various speakers.

As a result, the overall story-arch doesn’t have this same quality as the individual chapters. While all his chapters are on point with his topic of lies, there frequently isn’t a smooth transition from one chapter to another. Additionally, there isn’t an overly discernable structure that would imply why he put the chapters (particularly the middle chapters) in the order he did. If the book is being used as a weekly group study this won’t be a problem, but when listening to it in a single setting (or two) it can be off-putting.

Adam Verner did an amazing job as always. Anyone who has heard the voice work that he has done for DeYoung’s books can attest to the fact that he is one of the best narrators in the Christian audio market. Verner has the ability to not only read clearly and with good modulation, but also to bring out the personality of the author. When reading something by an author like Chaddick (whose personality is not only apparent but also a great strength of the writing) this unique ability is absolutely paramount.

A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.  .

Worthy of Her Trust: A Review

Worthy of Her Trust by Stephen Arterburn & Jason B. Martinkus is a well-written, well-structured book that will likely help a number of people. I found myself, at times, engrossed in the narrative elements of the story when we learn about the author’s challenges with fidelity, addiction, and honesty. The areas with which I struggled were some of the areas of advice. In many cases I found them either inapplicable, in the average situation, or not advantageous to the healing of the marriage.
There was great attention given to creating equanimity between the advice of the two primary authors. Sections of personal experience we balanced general advice. Sections than ran high with emotion were countered with practical application. Long narratives were offset by clear, structured exposition. I particularly liked the sections where we got a wife’s perspective in what was going on. All in all, this was a well thought-out book.
There were only two elements that I found distasteful. The first and foremost was the inapplicable nature of some of the advice. While most of the advice was both good and Biblical, there were some elements that were bothersome. One example of this was the “five minute phone call”. In brief, the author explains that when his wife calls he must pick up the phone immediately or dial back within five minutes. If he doesn’t, she is allowed to become angry and suspicious without concern of correction. The other element was statements made like “Your infidelity was the best thing that could have happened to our marriage.” This sends an overwhelming message that the “ends justify the means”. While it is a kind thing to say to assuage guilt, it is an unwholesome and potentially dangerous attitude. I spoke to many people about this and other elements offered in the book and all of them felt that occasional odd-solutions and comments were unbalanced and unhealthy. Overall, however, the book was good and useful.
I would likely suggest this book to other pastors with the caveat that they should prayerfully consider the solutions offered and feel free to apply discernment to what they shared with others. I would not suggest the book to a man in the middle of rebuilding his marriage, however, since his relationship is in a precarious place and even one piece of bad advice could offset all the good that could come from this book. While this book is clearly directed to the adulterous husband intent on fixing his marriage rather than ending it (an import and laudable goal) it should instead be used by a counselor or pastor that can sift the gold from the dross.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

Praying for Your Prodigal: A Review

Praying for Your Prodigal is a short supplementary work that Kyle Idleman wrote to elaborate on his outstanding book Aha. While Idleman does an excellenct job of developing his first book, Aha, he adds some valuable insights that address an issues that troubles a number of Christian parents, “What can I do for my child who has fallen astray?”

Idleman starts the book with a short introduction that explains the concept that he refers to as “Aha”.This introduction will prove helpful to those who haven’t read his earlier work. This section is brief but will provide a recap of the foundational issues that he is going to address in this supplementary work. The great advantage to this is that this work can function as a standalone work without reading the earlier work. Ideally of course, the reader will get the most out of this book if they have read both works in order.

The structure of this book is one of its most appealing qualities. Each chapter starts with a letter or a story. These are written in the first-person and show the various kinds of prodigals and their situations. They provide for the reader both a direct application and clear, understandable illustrations of what it means to be a prodigal. The body of each chapter is written in a strong, clear manner that will be both accessible and relevant to all levels of readers Additionally, Idleman uses a rich array of scripture in a way that is both in context and applicable to the topic at hand. He does this in a comfortable, narrative style that makes the message more accessible and applicable. Idleman ends each chapter of this book with a prayer for the kind of prodigal or the situation that a prodigal might be going through. These prayers provide an excellent opportunity for reflection. Not only does this chance to stop and reflect in prayer proves more effective than a summary ever could, but also gives parents the words to serve as a starting place to express to our Lord the trials they are going through.

This book could serve a number of ministry needs. Most simply it could be a daily devotional. The combination of letters, teachings, and prayers are succinct enough that they would serve well as a quick study to start each day with and reflect on throughout. Another good use would be a retreat: women’s, men’s, parents, etc. It is short enough overall and compartmentalized enough in it’s chapters in a way that would make it easy to cover in a 1-2 day retreat. Lastly, the book would make a good transitional home study. While it’s somewhat short for a full study, this book could work well as either a transition or as a work for a first time teacher.

The only element of the book that I had mixed feeling about was that Idleman kept quoting various translations of the Bible. For instance, he will shift for the Living Bible to the NKJV, to the NSAB. The advantage to this is that it is inclusive of all the different versions that the readers might use themselves. It unfortunately also gives the impression that he is picking and choosing those translations to fit what he is trying to say rather than him saying what is actually written. I’m sure, from what I have read by Idleman, that his purpose is the former, but I think readers would get more from a single translation.

On the positive side, this is and excellent book with an awesome reader that will be an inexpensive addition to your Christian audio collection. You will be blessed for having read it either by itself or in conjunction with its predecessor Aha.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

The Advocate by Randy Singer: A Review

In his book, The Advocate, Singer writes the first historical fiction book that I found myself actually enjoying. The characters where realistic, the use of varied cultural and physical setting added to the author’s use of conflict in the story, and the use of scripture was engaging but not overwhelming.

As I implied in the opening, I am not a huge fan of historical fiction. Often the characters are trite, two-dimensional representations of what people were like at that time in history. Singer strikes a balance with his characters. While some of his characters, like Nero, were thoroughly despicable from beginning to end, most of his characters showed growth. Ultimately, their hubris turned to more affable qualities that make them easier to like, appreciate, and understand. This comes across particularly clear in Theophilus’s first-person point of view. As you read, the book’s protagonist changes from a self-involved boy with a shallow understanding of the world into a thoughtful and wise man. His struggles and regrets become palatable as we grow to know and even like the man he becomes.

While little is known about the actual person Theophilus, and viewpoints about the culture in this time period is varied, Singer does a reasonably good job of presenting Roman, Jewish, and early Christian cultures. There’s clearly a heavy slant towards the Christian position; however, since this is written in a first person point of view we have to assume the narrator (Theophilus) is biased. This is one man telling a story about his life and his perceptions, not a historical or theological scholar reviewing details after the fact. Therefore, Theophilus is, of course, an unreliable narrator just like Huckleberry Finn or Atticus Finch.

What was a pleasant surprise was that the book wasn’t simply a retelling of the Passion of Christ (which is what I was afraid of). Instead it was a blending of places and cultures that came together fairly well. This book takes you on a journey with the character allowing you to experience Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem from one man’s perspective. Finally, the author makes a decent attempt at helping the reader understand the first century mindset: the depravity of Rome and the conviction of The Way. It is however flavored with a lot of current mindsets and values as well, but after all, it is fiction.

There were only two weaknesses in this book that bothered me. The first was that the transitions were not always clear. I occasionally found myself wondering where the author was going only to figure it out much later. The second was a tendency to fall out of narration into explanation which might cause readers to forget that this is a fictional book with just some sections of fact and subjective truth to engage the audience. I think of the memorable phrase of Dan Brown, in reference to his own book, “What section of the book store did you buy my book in?” It’s fiction — not theology or history.

The reader of the audio version, David Cochran Heath, did a good job overall. As in his readings of The Explicit Gospel and To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain he spoke in a clear measured tone that was easy to listen to and very relaxing. The pace at which he read was a little slow for me, but I simply increased the playback rate and it was great. This is not the kind of thing that everyone finds a problem however, and if you are one of the few for which it is, now you have an easy solution. Overall this was a good book. I will likely look into more of Pastor Singer’s books to read in the future.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

Taking God at His Word: A Review

When analyzing an audiobook that talks about biblical issues and accuracy there are several different elements that make or break the book. Among these elements are accuracy, structure, author’s style, applicability, and narration. As with all of DeYoung’s works, Taking God at His Word was highly accurate. The author carefully proves his points step-by-step using not only the Bible to support his positions but also by using renowned theologians and current articles. Academically speaking, DeYoung has written a substantial book that would prove useful in any study for new believers. Additionally, DeYoung organized both his chapters specifically and his book on a whole in a logical fashion that makes his points easy to understand. He offers a myriad of support in a straight forward way that is easily comprehensible.

The quality that got me to jump at the chance to review this book, however, was DeYoung’s style. In books like The Hole in Our Holiness, Crazy Busy, and Just Do Something, DeYoung has proven to be both droll and urbane in a way that both endears him to his audience and gets his reader to want to hear more. While I’m a bit of a systematic reader, I usually listen to his books in about a day. His witticisms and anecdotes often make the listener laugh out loud; however, he makes his points in such a way as to simmer in the back of one’s mind for days. This is what he usually does. In this book it seemed that he was trying to write a primer for new Christians. It begs to have a workbook made so that a membership class can dutifully follow along, fill in blanks, and go forth at the end of their 6-week session armed with enough knowledge to be confident in the inerrancy of scripture. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve found it. Long story short, reading this book took me over a month listening to the last several chapters on high speed.

Perhaps what set this off the most for me was the matter-of-fact way that Lee DeYoung read this book. Often an author reads his own work to include his own nuance and personality into his work to add life and familiarity to it. Unfortunately, I have never heard Kevin DeYoung read his own work. Other times an author chooses a professional reader for their clarity and skill in reading. Usually, DeYoung has Adam Verner do his narration. Verner has a great sense of pacing and stress that adds to the text of DeYoung’s books. Lee DeYoung, while clear and well spoken, has more of an announcer quality to his speaking which doesn’t add anything to the text. One doesn’t really comprehend how important the right reader is until you don’t have that reader anymore. Nevertheless, Taking God at His Word is a good and useful book but markedly different that the normal Kevin DeYoung repartee.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

The God Shaped Brain: A Review

This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute […].
This was the kind of book that I wanted to like more than I did. I firmly hold that science, looked at through the lens of scripture, shows how compatible the two topics really are. There are a number of good books out there that accomplish this; unfortunately, the lack of balance of this book makes the material both difficult to access and theologically questionable. Let me start by saying I really did like sections of the book and I am glad I read it. I liked how the author and I often came to many of the same conclusions, and I have even found myself quoting from the book. The author’s style and structure however will keep me from recommending it to many people.
The first problem with the book is how the author presented the material. A majority of the book is made up of two genre-specific types of writing. The first genre made up of long socio-therapeutic sections that is more reminiscent of self-help than psychology or hard science. These sections often (though not always) come across as feel-good opinion rather than theologically supported positions. The second genre was a heavily technical writing filled with acronyms and medical terminology. While these two genres could be (and occasionally are) blended together effectively, the author seems to write them to the exclusion of each other. This leaves the reader with either a lot of Bible-based opinion or a technical manual. I am sure this second issue is exacerbated by the fact that this is an audio book rather than written text with appropriate charts and diagrams. If Dr. Jennings could re-structure his chapters into a blending of the two topics, this book would not only be more accessible, but also likely seem more applicable.
The second problem is the knowledge base and bias of the writer. Dr. Jennings is clearly highly knowledgeable in the field of neuropsychiatry. He flies through concepts of the structure of the brain and its effects on individual’s psychological makeup and ultimately far-reaching sociological ramifications like a professional running back navigating the field for an 85 yard touchdown. Perhaps it is his extraordinary understanding of the science that makes his comparatively simplistic scriptural understanding seem a little lackluster. While Jennings clearly gives biblical support for his positions, his ideas obviously are not as adept in the theological field as they are in either the neurological or psychological fields.
Lastly, there is a lack of interconnectivity between to two topics making the work both disjointed and suspect. The juxtapositioning of expertise and passingly knowledgeable knowledge bases is perhaps the most jarring element of this book. It seems logical that if Jennings focused on neuropsychiatry and then used the Bible to support his positions he would seem more credible than he does treating these as two separate but related topics. I am left with the feeling that Jennings is trying to advance a theological position more that a scientific one. Since his expertise is medical and not doctrinal, this seems to be a bit of a red herring. I am reasonably sure this is not what the author intended, but without far more biblical and theological research to support his point, it is how it comes off.
Ultimately, I liked what Jennings had to say, and it is worth taking the time to read it. The problem is that his scientific skills far exceed his biblical or literary abilities. After a thorough restructuring and some careful theological research this could be one of the best scientifically based Christian books on the market. As it is, the book is fragmented and awkward for most readers. Sean Runnette’s reading of this book did help. He seems to have some experience in using intonation and stress to help a reader through the technical language; however, this does not replace the other elements which causes the book to fall short of its full potential.
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.