Summer Reading: The Ascension

Reading on The Ascension

One of the networks that I'm connected with in ministry (and very happy to be a part of) is the Porterbrook Network. Based out of Sheffield, England the Porterbrook Network was formed in 2007 to provide training for everyday Christians in theological, relational and missional development. I have the privilege of leading the local Learning Site in Wichita known as Porterbrook Kansas. The essence of Porterbrook is to develop gospel-centered Christians who live on mission in community within the contexts they live. As a church-based theological training center we are passionate about training everyday Christians for missional engagement and leadership in the church. As the Porterbrook Network has developed over the last few years access several exciting relationships have been developed and are in formation currently. As one of my friends in Sheffield recently told me, "Porterbrook is having a moment."

Part of that moment is the development of a publishing relationship with Christian Focus publishers and a series of books with the WESTPorterbrook imprint. The first book in this series is from Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow entitled The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God. Although I don't have a full-scale review for you of this book right now, I have enjoyed reading it so far and thinking about the implications of the Ascension for everyday life. To put it simply, the Ascension magnifies the glory of Christ and the impact of His ministry to me today.

Let me recommend that you pick up this book and add it to your summer reading list. It's a good read for a day at the beach, lake, or just wherever you might get an hour or so to rest, think and grow in your knowledge of Christ. You can pick up The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God from Westminster Bookstore for eight bucks. That's a pretty good deal for some solid and sound theological resources!

A Database of Great Quotes

Quotations For Preachers

One of the things that was recommended to me in my preaching courses throughout college was to compile some sort of database of quotes, stories, and illustrations so that as I worked on sermons I could easily access some helpful material to further illustrate the ideas I was gleaning from Scripture. One of my assignments from those courses was to index a few "mock" illustrations to get me on my way. After graduating college I completely dismissed this recommendation. In fact the few volumes of sermon illustration and such that I had in my library were completely ignored. Cataloging quotes to pull up at moments noticed seemed neither helpful nor a wise use of my pastoral time. If anything, I wanted my illustrations and stories to be real world, real-time not catalogs of quotes from a bygone era that made me look smart.

However, things change. I'm now into my 13th year of full-time ministry and while I don't heavily rely on a catalog of quotes I do recognize a need to have something to help me broaden my illustrative database and give me quick access to thoughts that will help me be a better communicator. The problem is, however, that I haven't compiled that database.

That's where the 1500 Quotations for Preachers series from Logos Bible Software comes to the rescue. Recently I was give the five volume set to review and examine in my Logos library and I have to tell you, I'm very pleased. The five volumes contain 300 quotes each from the writing of the most noted Christian leaders from the particular era their volume encompasses. The quotations come with a graphic of the key sentence in the quotation (for longer quotes) that can be put into any presentation software the user would desire. The graphics look great, but it's the quotations and their arrangement which make these volumes really worth the price.

Most sermon illustration books focus on arranging by topic and then have some sort of Scripture index in the back, if at all. The Logos version of the 1500 Quotations series however organizes each quote with a set of topics (frequently more than one) and Scripture texts. This makes it very easy to search for quotes by the passage that you are studying.

For instance, I'm preaching from 2 Peter 3:11-18 here in a couple of weeks and I was able to open my "Cited By" tool, enter the passage I am preaching from and found that there are nineteen possible quotes linked to that passage. For someone who is digging for a gold nugget of a quote this is a great resource to have on hand. The Logos ability to search, cut and save these quotes make it all the better. On a whole I am really happy with this series and it's five volumes. The era's that it covers are:

  • Preachers from the Early Church
  • Preachers from the Medieval Church
  • Preachers from the Reformation
  • Preachers from the Puritans
  • Preachers from the Modern Church

A Few Things Could Be Improved

Overall it is a great resource I'm happy to have in my library and have already made quick and good use of it. There are just a few things I wish were there that would make it perfect.

  1. Fix the Topic and Sermon Starter Guide. The product page advertises that this feature works with these volumes, but I can't get it to and some of the forum writing indicates it's not been finished for that yet. That's a bummer, but not the end of the day for me. I use the "Cited By" search more than I do those two guides in particular.
  2. Link The Resources to Original Sources. I'd be really happy if I could click a link from say, John Calvin, and it open up the specific resource of his in Logos to the page in which he is being quoted. I hate taking quotes out of context, and while I'm going to give the editors the benefit of the doubt on this one, I would like to double check and make sure that's the case and so that I could properly footnote the quote from it's primary source. Plus, I like to read around what the author is saying because I enjoy learning and will often find a few more good quotes. This feature would push this whole set over the line from "great" to "crazy great" for me.
  3. Include Some Living Guys. This has to do specifically with the final volume, the Modern Preachers, which is claimed goes from 1650 forward. I understand that is a super wide scope, but I think it would be a better volume if it was limited to preachers from 1650-1900. Perhaps they are developing a 300 Quotations from Postmodern Preachers volume so this is a minor oversight, but I didn't even see C.S. Lewis in the Modern volume.
  4. Broaden the Market. The resource itself is identified as being for pastors. But anybody who likes to read, communicate, write, etc. would be serviced well by these quotations. I enjoyed reading through these volumes just for the sake of finding things that I didn't know a particular person said. Logos might be limited the appeal of these resources by specifically marketing them towards pastors. Everybody can enjoy and use these volumes.

As a whole I would heartily recommend this resource to pastors and teachers. It will really help you quickly access some great quotes and material for your sermons. I'm grateful for the work that Elliot Ritzem and others put into crafting the database I always wanted but never made for myself. I have pushed this series to the top of my priority list for "Cited By" searches and plan on using it regularly. If you preach or teach the Scripture it's worth your time to have this sort of resource working as a research assistant for you.

bacon

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Francis Bacon

UPDATED: I just received an email from the good people at Logos that the one feature I really wanted to see (#2 on the list above) is actually something that 1500 Quotations does. If you hover over the authors name and then click the hyperlinked page number, it takes you right to the primary resource where the author made the selected quote. This has moved this resource for me into the "crazy great" category. You'd be crazy not to get this great resource!!

 

FTC Disclosure: Logos Bible Software has provided me with a copy of 1500 Quotations for Preachers for purposes of providing a review. I received1500 Quotations for Preachers at no charge to me and I am under no obligation to return the product but can keep it for my own personal use.

Reviewing Abraham: Following God's Promise

Recently I was given a copy of Logos Bible Software's new church curriculum entitled Abraham: Following God's Promise. Logos is probably the largest Bible software developer and has built one of the most robust and multi-faceted ecosystems for selling ebooks in the Bible software marketplace today. A little over a year ago I switched to Logos from another Bible software and I haven't looked back one in regret one bit. My usage of Logos is daily, and I rely heavily on the iOS apps and desktop software for all my study and research. Here's what I liked about the curriculum:

  • It's scalable. It comes with a full guide, a leaders guide, and a set of videos. A person can use it for personal study, a leader can take a Sunday school class through it, or a small group can watch the videos and discuss the content.
  • It's engaging. The graphics and slides for the presentations are well designed and informative. They don't drive the content, but they don't get in the way either.
  • It's thorough. The curriculum crosses the line between pop-Bible study and academic research rather well. The authors have endeavored to bring as much of the context and historical situation into the material as possible without it being completely dry and inaccessible.
  • It's Biblical. It's a character study (more on that later) and yet it manages to handle the content of Genesis and Abraham's story well.

For it's upsides here are a few things however that will probably keep me from using it, or buying the other character studies in the series

  • It's a character study. These aren't inherently bad but many of them can tend towards moralism if they don't have a clear connection and demonstration of Jesus being the greater and better hero of the study. I didn't get a sense from my walk-through that it was overly moralistic, but then again I didn't see too much of the centrality of Christ and the gospel. That's my bias of course.
  • Theologically Where? Here's the struggle of the publishing industry these days. How do they sell content? How do they turn a profit? This is even more difficult for a Christian publisher because the range of what is considered "evangelical" is so wide that no body is going to be happy, even if you try and make everybody happy. If I am going to purchase a curriculum I want to know right up front that the theological trajectory of the material is in keeping with mine. Not because I am a rigid "can't-think-out-of-his-tribe's-box" guy, but because I am going to be using it to teach the people I lead. I'll read outside of my tribe all the time personally, most of that won't see the light of day when I am teaching my people. So this brings me back to this curriculum study. I have no clue where it sits in terms of the underlying theological worldview. I know they are Christians. That's good, but not good enough for me to buy it sight unseen, and then use it with my church. This of course, is my bias.

Those two biases against this sort of material sink the ship for me. For some I imagine this will be helpful curriculum for their Bible studies and churches, for me however, the well designed graphics and presentation don't overcome the unknown content on the interior.

 

 

 

 

FTC Disclosure: Logos Bible Software has provided me with a copy of Abraham: Following God's Promises for purposes of providing a review. I received Abraham: Following God's Promises at no charge to me and I am under no obligation to return the product but can keep it for me own personal use.