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.

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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: 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.)