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Review: Hebrew Tutor Software (3/5 Stars)

Hebrew Tutor is a program that will basically give you the equivalence of a first semester seminary-level course in Hebrew. Beginning with the alphabet and ending by translating the book of Ruth, Hebrew Tutor seeks to give you basically one-on-one tutoring with audio and text lessons, drills, and quizzes. It can be purchased from Amazon or Westminster Bookstore.

The problems arise relating to the technology. Hebrew Tutor was created in 1997 and has not been updated since 1997...and it shows. The fonts that come with the program are not compatible with modern operating systems (XP/Vista, so in order to run the program you will need to contact the publisher, or as in my case the seminary using the program in order to even get the fonts to appear semi-correctly). Even with updated fonts many screens simply do not show all of the letters appropriately (Many only show half the letter). This is not enough to render the program useless by any means.

A second problem that arises is that the program is written for a 16-bit operating system. Most modern computers (running XP or Vista) are 32-bit and can run a 16-bit program without a problem. The computer from which I am writing this review and an increasing number of machines are 64-bit systems. At this time, 64-bit Windows simply cannot run a 16-bit program, so I need to go to a separate computer in order to run Hebrew Tutor.

Finally, the since the program is old, it looks old and runs like an old program. When it was written, gigabyte-sized hard drives were just coming into use, so it was unfeasible to have the 500 MB of files on the cd copied onto the hard drive for quicker access. The problem with this slower access to the program's data files is that the program runs very slowly (By modern standards), needing to fire up the cd-rom, find the audio file, and read the file prior to being able to pronounce any words you click on.  

Nevertheless, Hebrew Tutor has effectively served me to teach me Hebrew, with more than a little bit of frustration. I would hope that after more than a decade with a successful piece of software, Parson's would publish a more technologically up-to-date version.

Keywords: hebrew,software

Review: Worship Matters (5/5 stars)

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God is a book written primarily for those who lead music within a church setting. The goal of the book is to give guiding prinicples and practical advice to help the music leader see the essence of what their ministry is about and do that within whatever church context they find themselves. It is available from Westminter Bookstore and Amazon.

For the worship leader: This book is a must read. I can think of no circumstance a worship leader may find himself in which he should not read this book. It is the best on the topic of which I am aware, combining into one well written, heart-shepherding book all of the good things that before you would have had to read a dozen separate books to find. The book is both practical and theological, realistic and idealistic. It is God-centered, God-exalting and man-minimizing, while realizing that man must play a role. I have only rarely seen a book that so skillfully and thoughtfully combines rich doctrine and practical advice.

For the band member: Must read. The book is not only about how to lead those who perform, but about what the goal of the music portion of the worship service must be. The book will help you evaluate and redirect your heart in what you may have grown comfortable with. Maybe you

For the pastor/elder: Must read. Know how to encourage, direct, and come alongside your worship leader. I would recommend that the worship leader, band, and pastor(s) read this book together. The book so accurately describes the Biblical vision for worship that all who are involved in how a Sunday service, smallgroup gathering, or other meeting unfold should do so in light of the thoughtful, biblically informed direction Bob Kauflin lays out. There is even a chapter specifically for non-music-oriented pastors.

For the church member: Should read. I do not lead worship; I can't even sing on pitch, but what I was gained from the book made an immediate and palpable difference in the entirety of my worship (singing, participating in the Lord's Supper, listening to the sermon, and interacting with others) on Sunday. There are certainly other books that can benefit you in this regard, but this book is certainly one that can benefit all members of the body of Christ. Wayne Grudem recommends the book with the following words, "Worship Matters is an outstanding book borth for those who lead worship and also for every Christian who wants to worship God more fully. The book is biblical, practical, interesting, wise and thorough in its treatment of the topic."

The 260 pages of Worship Matters is laid out in a very convenient manner: Each of the 32 chapters are generally 4-7 pages in length, focus on a single topic, and can easily be read in a single sitting, even for slow readers. It reads much like a devotional and could easily be read in one month using only 10-15 minutes per day.

The book is broken into four parts:

Part 1: The Leader - Focusing on what kind of man the worship leader must be, touching on the heart, mind (doctrine), hands (practice & skill), and life.

Part 2: The Task. Each chapter takes a phrase from Kauflin's definition of a worship leader to define his task:

A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skillfully combining God's Word with music,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to proclaim the gospel,

to cherish God's presence
and to live for God's glory.

Part 3: Healthy Tensions - Bob identifies that many of the debates that surround music in churches tend to polarize people and points out that as a response to incorrect emphasis placed on one aspect of worship, that aspect may be neglected and too much weight given to the other extreme. We should rather see the wisdom in each of the two poles and using Scripture as a guide find ourselves in a healthy tension between them not as a response. The poles discussed, each in a chapter are:

  • God's transendence and immanence
  • Head and Head
  • Internal and External
  • Vertical and Horizontal
  • Planned and Spontaneous
  • Rooted and Relevant
  • Skilled and Authentic
  • For the Church and For Unbelievers
  • Event and Everyday

Part 4: Right Relationships - Lays out some biblical guidelines and practical advice for how the various groups of people and the worship leader can interact in the most edifying, God-glorifying way possible. Groups addressed are people in general, the church, the worship team, and the pastor. The book finishes with a chapter written specifically for the pastor(s) of the church.

I cannot sum up my thoughts any better than D.A. Carson did in his endorsement: "Here is a rare book: a practical treatment of corporate worship that nevertheless reflects deep theological commitments. One may disagree here and there with some of the judgments, but it is demonstrably unfair to imagine that Bob Kauflin has not through about these matters deeply." Bob's life and ministry at sovereign grace have demonstrated that he is a worship leader and pastor from whom we want to learn. C.J. Mahaney writes, "I know of no man more qualified to write this book than Bob. And I know of no more important, useful work for those who would lead God's people than Worship Matters." I agree.

Bob Kauflin blogs regularly at worshipmatters.com. Worship God Live and other Sovereign Grace Music cds are great examples of the music he writes and leads at Covenant Life Church. The author will be hosting a conference called WorshipGod08 July 30-August 2, 2008.

Keywords: kauflin,music,worship