Book Review: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, & James

imageOne of the most important aspects of the Christian life is staying rooted in the Word of God. The Scriptures are the basis of our faith and bring life to those who study and apply it. Yet, many believers would admit that it is a struggle to find the time in our fast paced society. Admittedly it is difficult. But we find the time for food, sleep, relationships, entertainment, etc. Even in our fast paced society we all find time for the things that are most important. If studying and applying God’s Word is a priority for us, we will find the time for it. The Explore by the Book series is a great resource to aide in personal Bible study. This new series published by The Good Book Company takes material from their Explore Quarterly series and adds space for journaling to better aide personal study. The newest volume in the series is 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, & James by Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry.

 

Features of this Volume

The portion of the gospel of John chosen for this study is packed with practical truth. Sam Allberry refers to it as “Jesus preparing his disciples for the world we now live in.” This portion of John is centered around the time immediately preceding the crucifixion. It is the last time Jesus will see his disciples before his trial and brutal death. He is preparing them for the time when they will no longer have him, but promises to send the Holy Spirit to empower them to live all that he has taught.

The letter from Paul to the Romans is a deep well of truth based primarily on the church knowing, understanding, and applying the gospel message to their daily lives. Paul opens the letter by calling the gospel “the power of God.” He spends the rest of the letter unpacking the truth of the gospel that no one is good and all are spiritually dead in sin. Yet, the climax of the letter is chapter 8, which is riveted with the joy of the freedom found in Jesus.

The epistle of James is a practical letter written to Jewish believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire. He discusses topics such as true faith, taming the tongue, partiality, guarding against the false idol of money, and taking care of the vulnerable. This letter remains a relevant resource to the church today.

 

Features in the Series

* Daily Format: This series is set up for daily scripture reading on a quarterly basis. It is important for followers of Jesus to be in the Word daily. Just like we must eat food daily for physical sustenance, believers must feast on the Word daily for spiritual sustenance. The format is set up to allow for thirty minutes each day, which is doable in the midst of busy lives. But daily reading is also a commitment, but one that will prove worth it over time.

* Reading Portion: The series encourages reading significant portions of Scripture directly from one’s personal Bible or Bible app. This is important for two main reasons. (1) It allows the reader to cherish the Word and (2) it allows the reader to study the Bible in context. Many contemporary devotionals provide a small portion of Scripture which is most likely taken out of context. Most of the time is spent reading the devotion and not the Scripture itself. Resources that encourage reading significant portions of Scritpure daily serve the reader well. As the old adage goes, “You can give a person a fish and feed him for a day or you can teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

* Application and Journaling: The application questions and space for journaling provide an important aspect for daily Bible reading. Many devotions simply tell you what the author thinks about certain verse or topic and may even bring some encouragement, but it does not apply directly to the readers life. The application questions provide the opportunity for the reader to take what they just read and apply it directly to what is going on in their lives at the moment. This fosters growth and feasting on the Word. It causes one to cherish the Word more, when they see that it applies to their lives personally.

* Prayer: A crucial aspect of daily devotional time is prayer. Devotional reading is good, but one must take time and speak to the Lord about how that passage of Scripture is convicting, teaching, and growing them. The guided prayers printed in the book serve as a launching pad for deeper prayer and application.
I would personally reccomend the Explore by the Book series and specially this volume to anyone looking for a resource to guide them in personal study. The guided but flexible format allows the resource to be tailored to everyone’s learning style and schedule. It will take a minimum of thirty minutes each day, but on days that time allows one could spend extended time in study and prayer. This series is formatted for personal study, but it could also be used in a small group or Sunday School setting as well. I am personally thankful for the ministry of The Good Book Company, because they provide excellent resources for churches and individuals.

 

 

I received this book in participation with the Cross Focused Reviews blog tour program in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Book Review: Christ All Sufficient

imageI find it difficult to write a review of a exposition on a biblical book, because I don’t want to inadvertently critique the Scriptures. However, expositional texts are important because they can help illuminate a specific Scripture verse, passage, or book for use in the church. Expositional texts or commentaries can be separated into two basic categories (1) academic and (2) layman. An academic commentary will be based in the original Hebrew or Greek and can be difficult to use unless a person is proficient in those languages. A layman’s commentary may reference the original language but will breakdown the text in such a way that it is conducive for preaching, teaching, or personal study. This is what Brian Hedges does in his new book Christ All Sufficient: An Exposition of Colossians.

Many Christians might think that a commentary is only for pastors. It is true that the average churchgoer does not know Hebrew or Greek. However, this is no excuse for not diving into the Word for further study. Resources like Christ All Sufficient, which I would consider a layman’s commentary, provide great tools for deeper study.

At this point I will review a few of the features in the book that aide in further study of the book of Colossians for preaching/teaching or personal study. First, Hedges provides a great outline which walks systematically through the text. The book of Colossians was originally written as a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church at Colossae. A good outline allows the reader to put each verse in context and help understand the Apostle’s train of thought. Hedges not only breaks down the text in a basic outline, but breaks it down verse by verse. This aides a more comprehensive study of the text.

Second, the book provides good exposition of the text. Not all books that claim to be expositional are good. The point of an expositional resource is to “expose” the text and reveal what it is trying to say. Some “expositional” books impose on the text the agenda of the author. Hedges, of course, adds his own voice, viewpoint, and style into the writing. However, he does an excellent job of exposing what the text is saying. He does this in a few ways: (1) he references keywords, defines them, and applies them in context. (2) He cross references with other scriptures to provide a biblical theology of what is being discussed. (3) He references other sources such as commentaries, dictionaries, and other resources.

Lastly, Hedges writes the book with a pastoral heart. When the Apostle Paul originally wrote the letter to the church at Colossae he did so for the purpose of reminding the church of Christ’s sufficientcy. In the same way, Hedges exposes what Paul is saying and applies to the church today. We can get distracted by many things in this world, but when we remember that Jesus is enough and can provide the strength we need to face any circumstance.

I highly reccomend Christ All Sufficient as a resource for studying the book of Colossians. Whether you are preparing for a sermon series, Sunday School class, small group, or personal study Christ All Sufficient is a great resource.

 

 

I received this book in participation with the Cross Focused Reviews blog tour program in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Book Review: Living in the Light Money, Sex and Power

imageWhat is supreme in our life? What takes first place in the priorities of our life? The answer will reveal where we place our hope and determine what or who we worship. In truth the place of preeminence is reserved for Christ alone, yet because of the Fall many other things take His place in our life. Three specific places that all people look for fulfillment are money, sex, and power. Put in priority, these there can bring immense joy. It is when they are put in the place of Christ, that they can become a snare that leads to other sins. This is what Dr. John Piper discusses in his new book Living in the Light: Money, Sex, and Power published by the Good Book Company.

Summary
In the book, Dr. Piper reveals that money, sex, and power are precious gifts from God in order to bring joy and fulfillment in the lives of His people. However, because of sin they can be perverted and placed as preeminent in our lives. If we allow one of these to take the first place in our hearts the damage it can have in our lives and others’ lives can be devastating.

First, sex was created by God not only for procreation, but bring joy and pleasure for His people. However, the lie of Satan “was to make the fruit look more desirable than God” (pg. 29). Our first parents “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Rom. 1:23, ESV). What God intended as enjoyment and pleasure, mankind put in the place of God. In regards to sex, this was done by taking sex out of the bonds of covenant marriage and partaking whenever we see fit. This is seen rampantly in our culture with the redefinition of marriage, gender issues, pornography, premarital and extramarital sex. When enjoying sex takes priority over enjoying God through sex, we have exchanged the glory of God for images.”

Second, money was created by God as a way for mankind to flourish. Through money we can give and receive material goods and services. Money helps us meet our most basic needs and allows us to enjoy the world around us. However, because of sin we pursue the gift rather than the Giver. Money can become our primary goal in life. This can happen through seeking a lucrative career path or being stingy with what God has given us by placing it in savings accounts. Money was not meant to be pursued above God because when we pursue God first he will graciously give us all things. This does not mean that we will become wealthy, but it means that he will meet our needs and provide for us.

Third, power was created by God as a way for us to pursue pleasure through Him. However, power can easily become distorted in our lives and we pursue it above all things. Through power we can exalt ourselves and hurt others. This is most commonly seen through “climbing the corporate latter” where we step on others in an effort to get to the top. Power was not meant to be pursued above all else, but as a way to pursue please through God.

Application for the Christian Life
The remedy, as Dr. Piper puts it, is to put the Son back at the center of the solar system of our lives. When the money, sex, and power get out of “orbit” it causes many problems. However, when Christ is preeminent in our lives he graciously gives us all things as good gifts to enjoy him.

Sex was given as a gracious gift to glorify God by enjoying the pleasure that only he can give. When it is enjoyed within the bonds of convenient marriage, sex can bring immense pleasure and ecstasy. God has given us freedom within those bonds to explore and enjoy the spouse he has given us for his glory. Yet, even marital sex cannot completely satisfy, only Jesus can. Marital sex, is intended to point us to the only one who can satisfy and complete us in the covenant community we have in Christ. In marriage, we must give God the glory for the good gift of sex that points us back to him!

Money was given as a gracious gift by God as a means to provide for us and bring us pleasure. When it is enjoyed as a means of enjoying God, money can bring enjoyment and pleasure in this life. God has given us the freedom to enjoy his created world through money. To some he has given much and other he has given little, but he has graciously given to all. Whether he has given you much or little, we are tasked with the responsibility of being good stewards with what he has given. Each of us must trust God to provide no matter how much money we have in the bank.

Power was given as a gracious gift by God to pursue pleasure through him. When it is enjoyed as a means for enjoying God the good of others, power can bring us immense joy. It is only when we abuse the power we have been given for selfish gain that distorts the gift. God has given some people places of power in order for them to fight for justice. This is one way that we can exercise of our God given power, no matter how much we have been allotted.

Ultimately, all three of these gifts have been given to us, in one degree or another, as means by which we can pursue and enjoy God. We would be wise, by God’s grace, to steward them well.

I would highly recommend this resource to anyone struggling with placing money, sex, or power as preeminent in their lives. Which in one degree or another includes us all! Dr. John Piper uses his gift of writing to point the people of God back to Christ. It is only when seek Christ above all else that all these things are added to us (Matt. 6:33-34). This short book would be excellent for personal or group study. What a blessing Dr. Piper is for the church!
I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Book Review: NLT Guys Slimeline Bible

imageGod’s Word is essential to personal spiritual growth. The psalmist writes “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NLT). It is not only the way through which believers get to know God, but it is the way through which God leads believers through life. This spiritual journey, for many, begins early in life. For this reason it is important for young people to understand and know God’s Word.

Commissioned in 1996 and updated in 2013, the New Living Translation is a good modern Bible translation that lands in the middle between literal and readable translation theory. It does a good job of keeping the message of the biblical text center, while simultaneously making the text readable, which is great for younger readers. The NLT translates ancient measurements, weights, currency, and time into the modern equivalent. It also translates biblical phrases, idioms, and names while some translations only transliterate them. The NLT is translated to be read aloud which is great for group study, personal reading and memorization.

 

Key Features for the Guys Slimline Bible:

  • Design: The slimline design fits easily in the hands for personal reading. It also fits well into a backpack for travel or use in various settings.
  • Footnotes: The footnotes do an excellent job of explaining portions of the text that may be difficult to translate or understand.
  • Cross-References: The NLT places cross-references in text for quick access to similar passages for personal study.
  • Dictionary/Concordance: The NLT dictionary/concordance is an excellent resource for defining biblical terms and locating other passages that use the same word.
  • Maps: The maps at the back of the bible allow the reader to understand the world of the Old and New Testaments from a geographic perspective.
  • Reading Plan: The 365-Day Reading Plan allows the reader to read through the entire bible in one year by reading a few chapters each day.
  • Memorization Verses: The NLT provides key verses to memorize that are organized by topic. This allows the reader to apply God’s Word to their lives in varying situations.

As mentioned above, the NLT is great for younger readers. The Guys Slimline Bible would make a great gift for graduations, baptisms, confirmations, etc. I would reccomend this resource to youth pastors and youth workers for use in with their students.

 

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers as a member of the Tyndale Bloggers Network program in exchange for an honest review of the book.

 

 

 

Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You

51czjOBstwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The book of Romans, specifically chapters 8-16, have been hailed by pastors, scholars, and theologians alike as the Apostle Paul’s magnum opus. Writing to non-Jewish Christians in Rome, Paul packs the letter with deeper theological truths. He hits at the heart of the gospel proclaiming that salvation comes by no one or no thing other than the grace of God through the cross of Jesus Christ. This is what Pastor Tim Keller discusses his book Romans 8-16 For You, the second of two volumes on the book of Romans in the God’s Word For You series published by The Good Book Comany.

 
The God’s Word For You series is not a critical commentary for deep study, but serves as an excellent “lay” commentary for personal biblical study. Romans 8-16 For You follows the same philosophy of study. In this second volume, Keller does a good job explaining chapters 9-11, which are some of the most theologically challenging in all of Scripture. Many people want to pluck them out of context and discard or defend their teachings. Keller, however, explains them in context of the previous eight chapters and the subsequent five chapters of Romans.

Romans 8-16 For You and the entire God’s Word For You series is an amazing resource for preaching, small groups, or personal study of God’s Word. The series aims to be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied, and easily readable. Romans 8-16 For You hits that aim on the bullseye! This resource will help one to read, feed, and lead in their own ministry context. I highly recommend this book, and the series, to anyone seeking to study the book of Romans. It is a wonderful companion guide in personal Bible reading. What a treasure!

(I received this book from The Good Book Company through the Cross Focused Review program in exchange for an honest review of the book.)

Book Review – What is Biblical Theology?

 

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Many times when reading the Bible it can seem disconnected and confusing. We wonder how the thirty-nine book of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament fit together. For a new believer, this feeling can be magnified. However, the Bible is remarkably interconnected from Genesis to Revelation. Each book unfolds more of God’s story of redemption. This is what James Hamilton Jr. discusses in his new book What is Biblical Theology: A Guide to the Bibe’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns published by Crossway.

Hamilton defines Biblical Theology as “an attempt to get out of this world and into another.” He reminds the reader that the Bible is a book that tells the big story of God’s redeeming a people for himself. Throughout the Bible runs a metanarrative that connects all of the stories in one central theme. The plot of the Bible is creation, fall, redemption, new creation. Every story in the Bible points the reader to this plot. It is for this reason that good hymns and worship songs follow this story line. If you think about most old hymns speak to the goodness of God, the sin of man, Jesus’ work on the cross, and Jesus’ return. These hymn writers understood the narrative of scripture and the importance of reminding people thereof.

The Bible connects each individual story to the big story by using symbols, imagery, types, and patterns. Hamilton gives examples of these such as the temple, the exodus, and the church. The temple served as the place of God’s presence among his people. In reality, God’s presence fills the earth. He cannot be contained in a temple or tabernacle. The temple served as a symbol that God’s presence was with them. For the believer God’s presence dwells inside them through the Holy Spirit. Exodus tells the story of God delivering his people from Egyptian bondage. The exodus story serves as a type pointing to a greater exodus through Jesus who delievers people from the bondage of sin. Imagery used in Scripture include the church being the bride of Christ. This image allows the biblical reader to see how deeply God loves his people as a husband loves his bride.

There are two applications from What is Biblical Theology? First, understanding the big story of the Bible will allow the reader to experience the unfolding of God’s revelation, which enriches study and one’s personal relationship with God. Second, it allows the reader to fit themselves into the big story. We are not the point of the story, God is. There are millions of books on the shelves of the Christian Living section that will tell us we are the main character of the story. Yet, this could not be further from the truth. We are the ones who were in desperate need of rescue. God is is the hero who rescued his people from the bondage of sin.

I recommend What is Biblical Theology? to anyone seeking deeper study of the Bible’s metanarrative. This book whets the appitite for deeper study of God’s Word. What is Biblical Theology? serves as a great jumping off point to further study of biblical theology. This resource is perfect for individual or classroom study. It is amazing to take a step back and see the storyline of the Bible from beginning to end.

(I received this book through the Crossway Review program “Beyond the Page” in exchange for an honest review of the book.)

Book Review – 1 Samuel for You

fy1sam_hb_medium.plkziigj53ms7wrbe5sojyhyvcgbfer5As Christians we tend to focus our study of God’s Word in the New Testament. Many times when we read the Old Testament we tend to think of it as a set of stories from an ancient time that have little baring on our lives today. Yet, the entire Old Testament points forward to the life and work of Jesus Christ. This is exactly what Tim Chester discusses in his new book 1 Samuel for You published by the Good Book Company.

1 Samuel is considered a “preached history,” recording the rise of Israel’s kings. Until this point in Israel’s history judges or “leaders” had governed the people under the direct leadership of God. Now the people of Israel want “a king like the nations.” So that is what the Lord gives them in king Saul. Yet, he is not exactly the leader that the people bargain for. As the Lord had warned them, Saul takes from the people and almost destroys the kingdom while trying to protect his throne. For this reason the Lord raises up his choice of king for Israel, David.

The writer of Samuel draws a stark contrast between Saul, the people’s choice, and David, God’s choice. David has been promised to inherit the kingdom from Saul, but he doesn’t want to take it by force from God’s anointed. Saul grows ever jealous of David and becomes determined to kill David insuring that the kingdom will not be taken away. David runs for his life spending years in the wilderness. At the end of 1 Samuel, Saul kills himself after being mortally wounded in battle. David then can rightfully ascend to the throne of Israel.

Three lessons learned from 1 Samuel for You. First, the Lord has a plan for redeeming his people. 1 Samuel opens with the story of Hannah praying for a child because she was barren. This story seems insignificant because she was not the only barren woman in Israel. Hannah’s story is mentioned because it is part of the bigger story of redemption. Her son, Samuel, would serve as the last judge of Israel and anoint the first two kings of Israel. From the line of the second king, David, would come Jesus the Messiah. We too are a part of God’s plan of redemption as recipients of His grace. Our story may seem insignificant, but it is part of the greater story.

Second, we are not the heroes of the story. When we read Old Testament stories like David and Goliath we tend to put ourselves in the place of David. We like to think that we are the giant slayer. Yet, in reality we are not David. We are not the point of the story. David, the anointed, points us to greater anointed one, Jesus. We must see ourselves as the Israelite army shaking in our boots at the site of a Philistine giant. We are the one who are in desperate need of a rescue. We need our greater David to step in and save the day. Subsequently we, like the Israelite army, fight from victory not for victory. We only have the power to defeat sin in our lives because Jesus has won the victory through his death and resurrection!

Third, we need to be patient in waiting on God’s promises. The Lord promised to David that he would one day be king of Israel. Yet, for a season of his life David ran from Saul in the wilderness. He had plenty of opportunities to take the kingdom by killing Saul. David did not, however, want to take the life of God’s anointed. He would not take a short cut to get what he was already promised. David waited on God’s timing. This is a lesson that all believers must learn. Throughout the Bible the Lord gives multiple promises, but they are given in the Lord’s own time. As believers we must run from the temptation to usurp the Lord’s timing.

In 1 Samuel for You, Tim Chester hits another one out of the park! 1 Samuel for You and the entire God’s Word for You series is an amazing resource for preaching, small groups, or personal study of God’s Word. 1 Samuel For You helps people to read, feed, and lead in their own ministry context. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking deeper study in 1 Samuel. What a treasure!

 

 

(I received this book through the Cross Focused Review program in exchange for an honest review of the book.)