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Reviews of Books & Movies

Movie Review: Silence

A Thought-Provoking Look at Faith, Persecution, and Navigating Right and Wrong

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

The movie Silence is a fictional account of two Jesuit priests from Portugal who seek permission to travel to Japan in 1639. They desire to investigate what happened to their mentor. His written communication had stopped, and a rumor circulated that he had turned his back on his faith and his missionary work, having committed apostasy.

The story takes place in seventeenth century Japan, one with open, state-sponsored hostility to Christians and their faith. Seeking to end conversions to Catholicism and wipe away the church, an inquisitor is tasked with finding believers and forcing them to commit apostasy. He resorts to extreme measures—including torture and executions—to do so.

The inquisitor, however, makes a startling discovery and changes his tactics.

Silence is a can’t-miss movie that every Christian should consider watching. Click To Tweet

Silence is a riveting portrayal of extreme religious persecution and torture. It is faith-friendly and thought-provoking. It’s a can’t-miss movie that every follower of Jesus should see.

Though critically acclaimed, the movie Silence was not a financial success. This may be in part to its long two hour and forty-minute runtime. It’s also rated R for its graphic portrayal of persecution, torture, and execution—though not excessive nor gratuitous.

The movie Silence is based on the 1966 acclaimed novel by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō and took Martin Scorsese nearly three decades to complete.  It stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Book Review: The Psalms in the Light of the Lord’s Prayer

By Patricia M Robertson, D.Min

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Take a fresh look at the Psalms.

Some people love the Psalms and other struggle through them. Regardless of which camp you’re in, this book will provide added clarity. In The Psalms in the Light of the Lord’s Prayer, Patricia M Robertson, D.Min, applies the suggestion of Father Thomas Murphy that each Psalm aligns with one of the seven phrases in the Lord’s Prayer.

This provides a pleasing structure and rhythm to the Psalms that isn’t available by reading them straight through from chapter 1 to 150.

Starting with the opening phrase, “Our Father in heaven,” Robertson teaches about this line and connects it to 12 specific Psalms that address the confidence and trust we have in God. She repeats this process for each of the remaining six phrases in the Lord’s Prayer to produce a delightful, instructive grouping of each Psalm into an organized structure that provides clarity.

These subsequent chapters are:

  • Hallowed be thy Name: Psalms of Praise (19 Psalms) and Thanksgiving (15 Psalms)
  • Thy Kingdom Come: Royal Psalms (23 Psalms)
  • Thy Will Be Done: Wisdom Psalms (22 Psalms)
  • Give Us this Day our Daily Bread: Psalms of Supplication (10 Psalms)
  • Forgive Us our Trespasses: Penitential Psalms (10 Psalms)
  • Lead Us not into Temptation and Deliver Us from Evil: Psalms of Deliverance (39 Psalms)

Robertson ends each grouping with some thought-provoking questions for further reflection.

She concludes with some additional thoughts on the doxology to the Lord’s Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Though she doesn’t connect this phrase to any of the 150 Psalms, be sure not to skip this part of her teaching.

The overall result is an accessible Bible study that readers can use during the seven weeks of Lent, for seven days, or even for seven months to explore the Psalms in new ways and gain fresh insights through them.

[The Psalms in Light of the Lord’s Prayer: Bible Study, by Patricia M Robertson, D.Min. February 10, 2021, 63 pages; ISBN: 9781393252573]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Book Review: The Jesus Bible Artist Edition

The purpose of the Bible’s 66 books is to reveal God to us. More specifically, the Bible reveals Jesus to us. The Old Testament anticipates him, while the New Testament celebrates him. This is perhaps best portrayed through The Jesus Bible, which smartly places the focus of the biblical text where it belongs: on Jesus.

Available in both the popular New International Version (NIV) and contemporary English Standard Version (ESV), The Jesus Bible surrounds these two reader-friendly versions with 1,000 additional pieces—in the form of conveniently placed full-page articles and sidebars—to round out the text and breathe new life into the familiar.

The Jesus Bible prefaces each of the Bible’s 66 books with helpful introductory text to explain the context, setting, or significance of the words that follow.

Each section also provides details of where and how the book fits into the historical timeline, along with a key verse from that book. The Jesus Bible Artist Edition, ESV, which I reviewed, includes a helpful concordance in the back matter.

If you’re looking for more than the Bible, such as a Bible that helps you better understand what it says and how it applies to your life, consider The Jesus Bible.

[Legal stuff: I received this Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, #BibleGatewayPartner.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: Life Application Study Bible

The third edition of the Life Application Study Bible may just be the only Bible study tool you’ll ever need. With the popular NIV translation as its foundation, this Bible surrounds it with insightful charts, timelines, and sidebars.

It also includes a concise commentary, cross reference notes, and character profiles.

The Life Application Study Bible has a slew of other valuable resources too. The over two-hundred pages of backmatter content provides additional aids, such as a resource for Christian workers, a 365-day Bible reading plan, and several indexes for abbreviations, charts, maps, and personality profiles of biblical characters.

A most helpful resource in this Bible is the combined dictionary-concordance. From one place readers can find definitions of key biblical terms, along with a list of verses that contain those words. This is a most helpful way to dig deeper without consulting multiple, unwieldly references.

A compelling characteristic of the Bible reading plan is that it covers a “complete view of the Scripture . . . without being overwhelming.” It does this by skipping duplicate content. This streamlined approach provides an effective, manageable tour of the Bible in just one year.

Last, don’t overlook the fourteen full-color maps in the back. They go beyond the typical maps found in some other Bibles, providing additional details and fresh views that address various eras of the biblical narrative.

For example, you may have seen maps of Paul’s missionary journeys, but what about Philip’s, Mark and Barnabas’s, and Peter’s? Their travels are there too.

Whether you’re reading the Bible for the first time or want to see it with fresh eyes, Life Application Study Bible may just be the ideal resource for you.

[Legal stuff: I received this Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, #BibleGatewayPartner.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: NIV Quest Bible Study

As the title suggests, the NIV Quest Bible Study is based on the popular New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. It’s billed as “the only Q&A Bible study” with “answers to thousands of questions about the Bible.”

Have you ever read a passage in the Bible and had a question about it? I have. And I’m sure you have too. In the NIV Quest Bible Study it’s quite possible that they already addressed your question in the accessible Q&A sidebar found on every page.

Presenting additional information in a clever Q&A format provides additional insight that sheds more light on the biblical text. This allows readers to come away with an expanded understanding of what the text means and how it might apply to our life today.

In addition to the sidebar questions and answers found in every page are the top 100 most asked questions about the Bible. These provide honest clarity into issues that perplex many Christians and readers of the Bible.

The NIV Quest Bible Study also provides many other valuable resources. Most notable is the combined dictionary-concordance, which defines key biblical terms and then lists verses that contain those words.

Other items include:

  • Three practical Bible reading plans
  • An introduction to each book in the Bible
  • Lots of maps and timelines
  • Index of the subjects covered in the NIV Quest Bible Study, along with the verses that address those themes
  • Fourteen full-color maps in the back matter give geographic insight into various time periods covered in the Bible

The NIV Quest Bible Study is more than the NIV Bible, it’s a complete Bible study guide.

[Legal stuff: I received this Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, #BibleGatewayPartner.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Book Review: NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids

Good for Children of Ages

I’m quite familiar with the NIV (New International Version) Bible. The NIV is the version I use most for Bible reading, studying, and research. And it’s the version I usually quote in my books. But what about the NIrV?

Though I’ve heard about the NIrV (New International Reader’s Version), I knew very little about it and was excited to have the option to check it out.

Based on the NIV, the NIrV uses shorter sentences and replaces longer words with shorter words. It’s created for a third-grade reading level. This makes it even easier to read and understand then the popular NIV.

That makes the NIrV ideal for people new the Bible, people who struggle to understand the Bible, and people who use English as a second language. And it’s also ideal for younger readers.

To make the book kid friendly, NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids is packed with colored illustrations that aid in the learning experience. Tailored for “kids ages 4-8” it’s in a single column format, omits the distraction of chapter and verse notations as well as footnotes, and includes an informative double-sided poster.

Aside from the text, there is much to explore.

The NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids is a great resource for children of all ages. If you sometimes struggle to read the Bible, NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids might just be the right version for you—even if you’re not a kid.

The book’s small font may be uncomfortable for young readers. And it’s important to point out that this is a complete version of the Bible, which contains many passages not suitable for children. This is the only concern I have for an otherwise really great book.

If you know a kid or are a kid at heart, check out NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids

[Legal stuff: I received this Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, #BibleGatewayPartner.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter

By Michael White and Tom Corcoran

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Are things not working at your church? Is your congregation aging and attendance dwindling? Are people just going through the motions and not engaged? Do folks arrive at the last minute and scurry off as soon as the service ends?

If any of these questions connects with you, then this book, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter, can provide insight to bring about positive change and produce a different outcome for your church.

With refreshing candor and an appropriate layer of humor, authors White and Corcoran share their journey in turning around and reinvigorating their dying church.

Though written by two Catholics about a Catholic parish, this book reaches far beyond Catholicism to provide useful information for any Christian church, including all streams of Protestantism.

In fact, many references in this book cite Protestant leaders, perhaps more so than Catholic sources. As such this is a book for all Christians who care about their church and want to make it better.

Another refreshing benefit of Rebuilt is the dual perspective of its two authors. Michael White is a Catholic pastor, while Tom Corcoran is a lay leader.

This allows them to share contrasting views of their church, one from the eye of a trained clergy and the other one from a caring staffer. Interestingly, both White and Corcoran arrived at this parish planning for a short-term situation, but they ended up staying for the long-term and turning around the dying church.

The book Rebuilt provides practical ideas of what to do in reinvigorating a struggling church and how to make it work. Click To Tweet

Rebuilt provides practical ideas of what to do in reinvigorating a struggling church and how to make it work. The authors also share why things worked. But even more insightful are the honest and sometimes painful initiatives that didn’t work.

Here we can learn even more from their failures than their successes.

The transition that this book documents didn’t happen quickly. It took time, a lot of time, along with many moments of discouragement and frustration. But the outcome was worth it. And this gives everyone encouragement that a struggling church can change to impact its members and its community.

Whether you’re a clergy or a lay leader, if you care about your church and want to make it better, read Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter.

[Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter, by Michael White and Tom Corcoran. Published by Ave Maria Press, 2012, ISBN: 1594713863, 292 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

What’s Your Love Language? What is God’s?

Do you know the five love languages? In his bestselling book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman explains that people show love and receive love in one of five ways: through words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

Though I identify with all five, I wasn’t surprised to learn that my primary love language is words of affirmation. After all, I am a writer and make my living using words.

He goes on to say that many people marry someone with a different love language.

The result is often frustration: what one person does to communicate love is not received as such by the other person, and how one spouse expects to be shown love is not what his or her partner typically does. This results in two people in love, showing their love, but not feeling loved.

The solution is to express love in the way our spouses will best receive it, by speaking their love language—not our own.

Dr. Chapman extends this concept of love languages to God in his book God Speaks Your Love Language: How to Feel and Reflect God’s Love. Unlike people who primarily use one or maybe two of the love languages, God excels at all five.

Though he shows us his love in all five ways, we might not perceive all of his various grand expressions of love but only those that align with our primary love language.

What we receive best from him matches our love language, which is different from other people, so don’t compare yourself to them.

God speaks all 5 love languages, and we respond using our primary love language. Click To Tweet

In response to God’s perfect love for us, we respond by showing him our love through our primary love language. That means my preferred way of showing God love may not match yours. That doesn’t imply either of us shows God our love in a wrong way, just a different way.

He receives all expressions of our love.

Then armed with a better understanding of how God shows his love to us and how we confirm our love to him, we can love others in a more effective and God-honoring way by using that person’s love language.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Book Review: The Church in the House a Return to Simplicity

The Church in the House a Return to Simplicity

By Robert Fitts (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Robert Fitts opens The Church in the House with a mission statement for a house church. Once he has readers engaged in the subject, he then builds a biblical case for house churches, including a detailed discussion of what is and isn’t a church (or the church).

Using the metaphors of a wheel and a vine, he advocates the vine as an ideal picture of church growth—living, spreading out, putting down new roots, and so forth—versus a wheel image that portends centralized control and a rigid structure.

He concludes the book with practical information about starting a house church, how that looks, and what it entails. For those so inclined, the bibliography offers a suitable list of resources for future study.

This book serves as a great primer for those seeking to learn the rational of house churches. It also functions as an apt resource for those pursuing the vision of a house church. For both groups, it is a short and easy read, packed full of useful information and insights.

[The Church in the House: a Return to Simplicity, by Robert Fitts. Published by Preparing the Way Publishers, 2001, ISBN: 978-1929451074, 120 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Book Review: A Spirituality of Fundraising

A Spirituality of Fundraising

By Henri J. M. Nouwen (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Based on a speech Henri Nouwen gave in 1992, this book is the eventual outcome. In it, Henri challenges us to consider the spiritual aspects of raising money for Christian service and outreach opportunities.

It should not be an unpleasant reality but a form of service whereby vision is shared and people are invited into missional participation. In viewing fund-raising as a ministry opportunity, we are able to help the “Kingdom of God come about.”

Before embarking on a fundraising effort, those doing the asking need to first consider their own views and perspectives on money. Their security needs to rest completely in God. If they have ungodly notions about money, their efforts to raise funds for ministry purposes will be limited.

When approaching wealthy people for donations, there is first the opportunity to minister to them and their needs.

Financially well-off folks struggle, too, and need love. In this way, fund-raising is really about creating long-term relationships with donors and potential donors, inviting people into spiritual communion. It is about building community.

In this, prayer is the starting point of soliciting contributions for ministry. As such, this book is a must-read for those engaged in Christian fundraising.

[A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Upper Room, 2011, ISBN: 978-0835810449, 64 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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