Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also on sale are several volumes in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible series ($5.38–$6.99 each):

The Story of the Most Daring Cliffhanger in ‘Next Generation’ History

Really enjoyed this behind the scenes look at one of the best stories to appear on Star Trek.

How to Conquer the Grumbles

Michael Herrington:

Last week, in preparation to preach from Philippians, I began tracking how often I grumble. How often do I complain either out loud, under my breath, or in my mind? I’m ashamed to say it was far more than I would have suspected.

Paul says we should do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14). He then goes on to describe four characteristics of what we will become when we do so: blameless, innocent, children of God, and above reproach. He’s not talking about salvation with these terms; that was accomplished by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. He’s instead talking about how others will perceive us. He’s talking about an outward revelation of an inward reality.

In Search of True Evangelicalism

C Michael Patton offers a framework for defining evangelicalism.

How Pixar Enchants Us

Michael Cavna at the Washington Post:

Arguably no film studio in the world expends so much energy actively trying to fail. And succeeding at it. Time after time, in 15 mostly acclaimed feature films over two decades, Pixar’s history is littered with big and beautiful and once-treacherously unwieldy failures — epics of initial underachievement and momentary monuments to the quagmire of the creative mind.

I Just Agreed With Richard Dawkins

David Murray:

Although we usually disagree on just about everything, I recently found myself in the strange position of agreeing with Richard Dawkins as he came to the defense of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Timothy Hunt, who’s been hounded out of his important and prestigious job for foolish comments he made at a scientific conference in South Korea.

Links I like

Google got it wrong

Lindsey Kaufman laments the open-office workspace. Having worked in these spaces, I definitely share many of her frustrations.

You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Global Missions

Jason Carter:

Let’s not gloss or oversimplify the Great Commission into a metaphor for “going across the street” or “being bold for Jesus at the water cooler.” It’s so much more than that. It’s a global clarion call for disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all nations.

In our good intentions to help people serve right where they are locally, let’s not stamp out the few remaining embers of fire in the local church for global missions.

Kara’s End

Kara Tippetts:

And now, now I’m learning what it is to die by degrees. Parts of my body failing, parts of my abilities vanishing, and what then? Yesterday, I kept thinking- I drove for the last time and didn’t realize it was the last time. I don’t remember the last time in the drivers seat or the music we played.  I just realized I will likely never again drive. It’s this weird event that marks the fading of a life, and I have no feeling other than wonder over the fact that it’s over. That chapter. All the driving my body can no longer do will now be captured by my community, my loves, my people. And there will be other strengths that will languish, and my people will press into love and provide us the needed strength and support to manage that new edge.

Shallow and narrow

Jeremy Walker:

I am not saying that we should indulge an appetite for pap or an itch for poison. Less mature readers usually need safer boundaries than more mature readers. But even the less mature could and should read beyond the hackneyed round of a few religious gurus. All should read those books which – without ever going outside the bounds of substantial orthodoxy – push us to think in ways we never otherwise would. Those starting out need to get into a groove, not drop into a pit. For most of us, it does us good to be stretched, challenged, engaged, taken out of our depth. If we are well-grounded in the faith, such a process can helpfully stir us, exercise us and ultimately strengthen us.

3 ways not to use Greek in Bible study

Justin Dillehay:

I’m not saying that Greek word studies are bad, or totally unnecessary (after all, we are not native Greek speakers). But unless you do them properly, they’ll simply give you the illusion of knowing something when you really don’t. Most of the time you’ll do better to simply compare a number of solid translations like the NASB, ESV, NIV, and NLT. After all, the people who translated these Bible versions understand Greek far better than you or I ever will. So don’t throw away their expertise. And as you read, pay attention to the context. An ounce of good contextual analysis is worth a pound of poorly done Greek word studies.

Evangelicals’ favorite heresies

You may have already seen this, but it’s pretty disturbing as “most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.”

C.S. Lewis is coming to Logos

Sign up here to learn about pre-pub offers as they become available.

Why Do We Blame the World for Being the World?

Jim Hislop:

The implication—what else should you expect? We expect someone who professes to be a follower of Jesus to act like a follower of Jesus, but too many followers of Jesus expect those who are not to also act like followers of Jesus. Jesus never did, why do we?

A look at Logos 6

Announcement-SocialShare1200x1200

I am a big fan of Logos Bible Software. I was first introduced to this study tool at a conference in 2010, where a representative took it on a test drive and wowed his audience of pastors, students, and Bible study geeks. But I didn’t purchase it right away. I saw the tool on display at most every major conference I attended since and, in that time, built an impressive collection of business cards from sales reps, all waiting for me to pull the trigger and make the purchase.

Three years after my first experience with Logos, after scrimping and saving—not because it’s crazy expensive, but because I was crazy broke—I purchased my first package, Logos 5 (the Bronze edition, I believe), which rocked my socks. And now, Logos 6 is here.

I had the opportunity to play around with it for a little while before it was released to the public. I took it on a pretty serious test drive, using it while working on a few blog posts and a worldview course I’m writing for the teens and tweens. So what did I think?

Here are three quick(ish) thoughts:

The interface. Most users won’t notice a major difference between Logos 5 and 6 in terms of the look and feel, beyond the homepage. The new design, which reverts back to a more traditional up-down scroll from 5’s right-left, is clean, pretty and very easy to read, as you can see here:

Logos-6-home

My Logos 6 homepage (running in Mac OS X Yosemite.)

This is the most significant cosmetic change you’ll find in Logos 6 (or at least the most significant one I’ve noticed so far). The user interface and, therefore, experience are more or less the same. All the commands are in the same place, so you don’t have to relearn anything, and your search panels all appear as you’d expect them to. Which is to say, it’s designed to function best on a large second monitor… like say, my living room television:

logos-6-romans-1

A search using Logos 6 Silver. (Yeah, it’s a lot.)

In fact, if there’s any part of Logos 6 that’s a disappointment it’s actually the consistency of the look and feel of the interface. It’s functional, certainly, but it could use a little more love. I’d really love to see a really solid UI designer take a crack at it because it could be absolutely amazing. (Logos 7, maybe?)

The new features. Where Logos 6 really shines is in its new features. The team has done a fantastic job of doing some really cool new things to enhance your study experience. A couple of favorites of mine include the Ancient Literature tab and the Factbook. These functions give so much additional context to assist you in your study.

I’m working on a course for teens and tweens, one to help them understand the foundations of worldview. Romans 1:18-32 is a key passage for this study with Paul’s declaration that in our sin, God has given us up to depraved minds as we worship and serve created things rather than our Creator. From this flows all sorts of actions and attitudes that are declared unholy, from homosexuality to disobedience to parents. Without a doubt, this is one of the most provocative passages in the entire Bible. And this is why you want to be very thoughtful in studying it.

The Ancient Literature tab (which is only available with Logos 6 Silver and higher packages) lets you see where quotations, allusions, echoes and similar topics appear in the works of the church fathers, the works of Josephus, Philo, and other ancient writings. Being able to reference these writings gives you a better sense of how the passage was understood throughout history, as well as how it compares to other works in its cultural context.

Likewise, the Factbook makes puts a large amount of material at your fingertips. On the issue of homosexuality alone, it quickly showed me all of the key passages, plus several additional relevant ones, eleven different references found in Bible dictionaries, plus dozens of references throughout my library, including in the works of Josephus. Manually searching for all of this would take hours. But these features give you the information you need in a matter of moments, leaving you more time to sit with the text and do the hard work of interpretation.

Which brings me to my final thought…

The real power of Logos. The thing about a program like Logos in general, and Logos 6 in particular, is it’s only as useful as your library is extensive. The more you have, the better your experience will be. While I realize that not everyone can afford the premium packages, it’s worth investing your time and, yes, money into building your library as you can. If you can’t afford a premium package, start how I did with my first Logos package: get the Bronze edition and build on it. Add books that interest you. Add ancient texts. Take advantage of the free and cheap-like-free books that come up every month. The new features in Logos 6 are great, but if you don’t have the library to really support them, you won’t experience the full capability of your software.

Romans 1-7 For You by Timothy Keller

romans-for-you-Keller

Romans: it’s one of the most intimidating, confusing, and powerful books in the entirety of Scripture. In its 16 chapters, the apostle Paul casts a sweeping vision God’s redemptive purposes—”how God in the gospel makes sinners righteous, but also how this most precious gift of God is enjoyed in our lives,” writes Tim Keller in Romans 1-7 For You, “how it produces deep and massive changes in our behavior and even in our character.”

In his typical irenic fashion, Keller unpacks the message of the first seven chapters of Romans, helping us see the beauty of the gospel and our desperate need for it.

The gospel is for everyone

One of the most challenging issues we face reading Romans—and indeed, all of Scripture—is Paul’s emphatic decree that all of humanity is lost in when confronted by the justice of God.

That we are all, “without excuse,” with no hope to be found in moralism or pleas of ignorance. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Paul wrote in Romans 3:22-23. But he doesn’t leave us without hope. For while all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, all who are saved “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Moralism doesn’t justify, nor does ignorance. Instead, it is only God’s grace, the gift of redemption found in Jesus. And this is such good news for all of us:

God does not set his justice aside; he turns it onto himself. The cross does not represent a compromise between God’s wrath and his love; it does not satisfy each halfway. Rather, it satisfies each fully and in the very same action. On the cross, the wrath and love of God were both vindicated, both demonstrated, and both expressed perfectly. They both shine out, and are utterly fulfilled. The cross is a demonstration both of God’s justice, and of his justifying love (Romans 3:25-26).

Who is the man in Romans 7—believer or unbeliever?

Although all of Keller’s examination of Romans 1-7 is sound and edifying, perhaps no portion was more helpful to me personally than reading his view of the “wretched man” of Romans 7:7-25. Paul’s exposition of the effects of sin, the desire to do what is right, but being confounded by sin, has left many scratching their heads. Was he talking about Paul the unbeliever or Paul the believer?

Keller believes—and I would be inclined to agree—that Paul was writing of his then-present experience as a Christian, and the conflicting desires we all wrestle with. He writes:

We have, in some sense, “multiple selves.” Sometimes we want to be this; sometimes we want to be that. Morally, most people feel “torn” between diverse selves as well. Freud went so far as to talk about an inner “libido” (filled with primal desires) and a “superego” (the conscience filled with social and familial standards). The great question we all face is: I have divergent desires, different “selves.” Which is my true self? What do I most want?

This is helpful for so many reasons (and not simply because of confirmation bias). The point of Paul’s writing about these truths, that he continued to struggle with sin—and if anything, as he grew older, became increasingly aware of his own sinfulness—is to push us toward deeper dependence upon the Lord Jesus.

We are not justified and then left to our own devices to grow in holiness. If, to borrow an analogy, the gospel merely reset our righteousness back to zero, instead of giving us Christ’s, we’d still be damned. We do not do the things we want to do, and we do the things we don’t want to do. Paul’s point is simple, Keller says: “The unbeliever cannot keep the law (v 7-13); but neither can the believer!”

When we read God’s law properly, and when we look at our own lives honestly, we can only conclude that we are “wretched.” Without accepting this, we will never grasp the glory of the gospel. We will never truly appreciate the gospel of received righteousness. Only if our hearts truly cry at our wretchedness can we then know the hope and liberation of looking away from ourselves and to what God has done. Who will rescue Paul, and us? “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v 25).

For the good of your soul

Like the other volumes in the For You series, Romans 1-7 For You is not an exhaustive study of Paul’s epistle, nor is it intended to be. As I described the recently released Judges For You, this is a devotional commentary. Use it like one.

Allow Keller’s insights in Romans 1-7 For You to inform your study. Glean helpful insights and illustrations to use in sermons or small group studies. But even as you do, read it with the good of your soul in mind, recognizing afresh all Christ has done on your behalf, and grasping anew the glory of the gospel in Romans.


Title: Romans 1-7 For You
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: The Good Book Company (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

A look at The Gospel Transformation Bible

gospel-transformation-bible

The Bible market is a peculiar one, and not just because there’s such a thing as a Bible market. There are hundreds of different variations available today:

Metal-ensconced Bibles. Kids’ Bibles. Women’s Bibles. Bibles showing you how to be a prosperity preacher. Interlinear Bibles. Klingon Bibles… I’m pretty sure there may even be a scratch-n-sniff version coming out soon (if not, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, you’re welcome)!

We ESV fans have plenty to choose from, too. The ESV Study Bible is certainly the best known by far, but there are a few others. And now they’ve added a new (and much-hyped) version to the family: the Gospel Transformation Bible. In this study Bible, readers are shown how the gospel permeates the entire text of Scripture, beginning in the first verse of Genesis and culminating in Revelation with explanatory notes written by the likes of Scotty Smith (John), Jared Wilson (Jude), Justin Holcomb (Acts), Ray Ortlund (Proverbs), Jim Hamilton (Hosea), and dozens more.

There’s a lot that I could say about this, but let’s get down to the most important, and most obvious, question: What makes the Gospel Transformation Bible different from other study Bibles?

The answer really comes down to purpose. This is a study Bible intended to go after the hearts of readers, to aid in their worship of the Lord. While the notes included definitely explain the text, they’re less technical than those of the ESV Study Bible and geared toward application in light of the gospel. The goal of the authors is not to simply give readers more information, but to encourage heart transformation.

One of my favorite sections comes from Holcomb’s notes on Acts 7:1-73, Stephen’s speech before he is stoned to death. Commenting on this passage, he writes: [Read more…]

Links I like

Yes, We Are Judgmental (But Not In the Way Everyone Thinks)

Kevin DeYoung:

Is there a piece of biblical wisdom more routinely ignored on the internet, not to mention in our own hearts, than Proverbs 18:17?—”The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” I’ve never been accused of serious misconduct that I knew to be patently false or horribly misunderstood. But if I am someday, I hope folks will remember the book of Proverbs. “”If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). Too often we are quick to speak and slow to listen. The world, the flesh, the devil, and the internet want us to rush to judgment, when the Bible urges us to suspend judgment until we’ve heard from both sides. It happens all the time: pastors sinfully judge parishoners based on hearsay, church members criticize pastors without knowing the whole story, citizen assume the worst about politicians whenever another Scandalgate emerges, kids attack their siblings at the first whiff of error.

Exegesis has Consequences

Anthony Carter:

Ideas have consequences. Since the dawn of Western philosophy, we have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly of this axiom. From the influence of John Locke upon the founders of America, to the disastrous results of the influence of Karl Marx in Communist Russia and Friedrich Nietzsche in Hitler’s Germany, it can hardly be argued that ideas don’t have consequences. Yet, not only do ideas have consequences, but so too does exegesis.

Band of Bloggers

After a one-year hiatus, Band of Bloggers is returning this year in conjunction with T4G, and the topic is a doozy—building platform and the gospel:

There’s a lot of pressure today for pastors and leaders to build their “platform” in order to gain an audience and building influence. This is especially true if you are seeking to publish a book. With all the encouragement to self-promote and brand your identity online, how does this relate to the gospel call of taking up your cross and denying yourself? How do we make much of Christ when it seems so necessary to make much of our work?

The Biggest “Contradiction” in the Bible

David Murray:

When people criticize the Bible, they often point to contradictions. “The Bible says this here, but says the opposite over here!” This proves, they say, that this cannot be God’s book, it’s no different from any other human book with the usual errors and mistakes.

A Few Good Men, Not a Few Good Yes-Men

Carl Trueman:

Whether one is in a congregational or presbyterian church, the twin issues of transparency and leadership accountability are vital to healthy life. There must be transparent processes whereby the elders and minister can be held to account by congregants. And there must be a culture among the elders whereby the minister is held to account for his life and doctrine. It is not complicated: a decent book of church order and a few good men, elected by the congregation, are all that is needed.

Links I like

Reality versus theory

Ray Ortlund:

When we look at a church, we want to see their doctrine, mission statement, website, and so forth. Of course. But we also want to see the human reality of that church. Their official position is important, but it is theory. What says more is the reality within.

3 Common Ways to Read Scripture

Matt Smethurst:

I’m always a little skeptical when I hear people talk about reading Scripture “devotionally” rather than, say, “academically” (or vice versa). Who says we have to choose? I wonder.

But while my false dichotomy radar isn’t always bad, I have to remember people are wired differently. Humanity is not a sea of sameness. We aren’t clones. In fact, as Christians we are “stewards,” Peter says, of God’s “varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also the last day to get Contend for 99¢.

Is New York City on the Brink of a Great Awakening?

20 years ago, Eric Metaxas knew practically every born again believer in Manhattan.

“It was like a spiritual ghost town,” the cultural commentator, thought leader and author recalled.

Yet, over the recent decades—particularly this last one—New York has seen a surge in evangelicalism. Some cultural experts believe the Big Apple to be on the brink of another ‘Great Awakening.’

Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College—the only free-standing Christian institution of higher learning in New York City—compares this rise in Christianity to the the great Wall Street revival of 1857.

“I would say there is a very special moment of spiritual renaissance happening in New York City right now,” he said.

Evangelical retreat?

Russell Moore:

Evangelical Christianity, it seems, is moving back to a confessional centering on the Gospel. I find this to be good news. But that does not mean that the next generation of Gospel-centered Evangelicals should retreat from social and political engagement. As part of a reaction to their parents’ or grandparents’ errors, a Gospel-focused, missional Evangelicalism could become not only separatist and isolationist but just as politically idolatrous though from a different direction, all the while reassuring its members that they are avoiding culture wars or social gospel.

I am my people. No, really, I am.

Carl Trueman:

A while back I bumped into somebody who mentioned that he was ‘talking to my people’ to arrange for me to come and speak at his church. Somewhat puzzled, I asked him who ‘my people’ were. Equally puzzled, he responded that they were the people he contacted to arrange for me to etc. etc. I then explained that I had had a series of assistants when Vice President at Westminster (beginning with the inestimable Mrs. Peel, pictured left) who helped me be in the right place at the right time with regard to Seminary business and even remembered such things as my cell phone number for me. Having relinquished my administrative position, however, I had also relinquished that advantage in life. Finally, the penny dropped: the gentleman realized that the person responding to emails sent to the account which bears my name was none other than the person whose name was on said account: me, myself and I. Yes, if you email me and I respond, it is me. Then again, if you email me and I do not, please be assured that it is me who is ignoring you.

Get serious about your studies (recap)

Get-Serious-About-Your-Studies

Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”

A couple weeks back I shared a series called “get serious about your studies,” looking at a number of practical tools intended to help us study the Scriptures. Over four posts, we covered:

This kind of series is really fun for me to write, not just because it gives me a chance to point you to helpful tools, but because it gives me a chance to remind myself of the tools I have in my own toolkit. It is so easy to become lackadaisical, to lose focus… and it’s for this very reason you and I need to be diligent to study the Word, to invest ourselves in it and be mastered by it as we seek to grow in our understanding of God through the Scriptures.

If you’ve not already done so, I’d encourage you to read these for yourself—and, if you think I’ve missed anything, please let me know!

Get serious about your studies: how should you read the Bible?

Get-Serious-About-Your-Studies

This might seem like a strange subject to bring up at the (possible) end of a series, but it’s an important one.

A great deal of the discussion surrounding getting serious about our studies has been focused on different tools and learning aids—study Bibles, systematic theologies and technology. There’s so much I’ve not touched on (yet) including commentaries, original languages (although I’ve dealt with that elsewhere), Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias…

But there’s one thing I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t address this critical question:

How should you read your Bible?

What I’m talking about here is the science of hermeneutics, which is a big fancy word for “rules and principles for reading the Bible.” Whether we realize it or not, we do this every time we pick up our Bible—and the rules and principles we hold to drastically affect what we believe the Bible says. For example:

  • Whether you believe pastoral ministry is for men only or is open to women as well stems from the interpretive decisions you make.
  • How you approach the “God-hates-yet-loves-sinners” paradox is heavily influenced by your hermeneutical approach.1
  • How you understand the world to have come into being and how this world will end is drastically affected by the principles you use for interpreting the text.

I could go on with numerous examples, but I trust you get the drift. Hermeneutics really, really matter—we all use rules and principles of interpretation so we are obliged to do our best to make sure the rules we use are sound. [Read more…]

Get serious about your studies: you and your technology

Bible study has never been easier. We live in an age where we have more and better translations, more books, and more technology to assist us than ever before. Honestly, we should thank God for the assistance the technology that exists today brings to studying the Scriptures. Nevertheless, we have to be careful.

Being mindful of technology

In his book The Next Story, Tim Challies wisely cautions us to be mindful about how we use technology. “Am I giving up control of my life,” he asks. “Is it possible that these technologies are changing me? Am I becoming a tool of the very tools that are supposed to serve me?”

Technology, in other words, is a wonderful servant but a cruel master. How this applies to our Bible study is simple: Technology should aid us in confirming our conclusions, not determine them for us. We use the tools that exist to dig deeper, rather than skim the surface of the Scriptures. But technology can easily make us lazy, if we’re not watchful.

  • We can run a word search “wrath” or “love” and come up with a short or long list, but not come to a comprehensive knowledge of what the Bible teaches on either.
  • We can look up the Greek behind a particular word or phrase and still not actually get what it says.
  • We can pull together an explanation of a text from multiple sources, but not actually understand it ourselves.

And so we must be mindful. Technology is a wonderful tool, but one that always tempts us to become lazy in our studies.

What are the right tools for me?

But because we have so many really, really good options available to us, it can be a bit overwhelming. We can be paralyzed by choice. So I want to take a second to offer some recommendations on a few different tools that will help you in your study of God’s Word in three broad categories:

  • Memorization and devotional
  • Basic study
  • Comprehensive study [Read more…]

Get serious about your studies: why a systematic theology?

You’ve decided to get serious about your studies—wonderful! So where do you get started? We’ve already looked at a few basics surrounding study Bibles, but there are a few more tools that a student of the Word should have in his or her tool belt. One of the most helpful? A good systematic theology.

What is a systematic theology?

The term “systematic theology” is a scary one for a lot of people. It sounds cold and mechanical. But a good systematic theology can help inspire a greater love for the Bible and the God who inspired its writing.

Systematic theology, in broad strokes, seeks to compile everything that the Bible says about a particular doctrine (such as the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, the attributes of God, creation, etc.) into an orderly and rational form. More simply, “systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given subject.”1

While some are uncomfortable with the idea of systematic theology, thinking of it as being a divergence from biblical theology (a critique usually made by folks who are opposed to doctrinal certainty of any sort), a good systematic theology seeks to avoid importing man-made ideas and go no further than Scripture itself. While it doesn’t ignore the historical development of doctrine or philosophical ideas surrounding them, these fields lack the authority of Scripture.

In other words, consistent systematic theology is biblical theology.

Why do I need one?

The primary reason to have a systematic theology in your reference library is so that you can gain a better understanding of and appreciation for Christian theology. We are commanded to love the Lord with all of our minds, as well as our hearts, souls and strength, and therefore the study of theology should lead us not simply to gain knowledge, but lead us to praise God for who He is.

How do I use it?

As with all things, systematic theologies should be studied prayerfully and carefully. Keep your Bible handy, check references and make sure that what is there aligns with what Scripture clearly says. Further to that, a systematic theology is not a weapon—unless you need something to defend your home (some of these things are pretty hefty!).

Studying and referencing a systematic theology is not to be an exercise in showing off intellectual prowess. If the knowledge lies merely in your head, but doesn’t move to your heart, then it’s time wasted. [Read more…]

Get serious about your studies: you and your Bible

Get-Serious-About-Your-Studies

Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”

Through the Scriptures, we learn not how life works best, but how life really is. There is a God who created all things and is in authority over all things. That mankind, made in His image and likeness, rebelled against Him and plunged all of creation into its current state of futility and sin. And that God made a way for mankind’s sins to be forgiven through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

This is such good news, and we should want to know all we can about it, shouldn’t we?

Absolutely. A few years ago I wrote a series called “get serious about your studies,” offering readers a look at a few different resources intended to help them study the Scriptures. Today, I’m revisiting this series, beginning with the most critical area: you and your Bible. More specifically, your study Bible.

Do I need a study Bible?

Despite what many of us have been taught, the Bible isn’t an impenetrable book with a mysterious message requiring decoder rings and multiple PhDs to understand. The truth is, much of the Bible is fairly easy to understand. God wants His people to know Him, regardless of academic achievement. So whether you’re in grade school or grad school, you can understand the Bible.

Even so, we must also acknowledge there are many things that are confusing or unclear to the twenty-first century reader. Much of this is due to cultural proximity—we’re a long way away from the time Jesus and His apostles walked the earth. We live in a completely different context and speak a completely different language. Certain nuances get lost in translation. And let’s face it, the vast majority of us aren’t going to be learning the biblical languages anytime soon.

This is where study Bibles are a wonderful gift to us. A study Bible is a valuable resource to assist the reader in understanding Scripture by providing insight into words and phrases used that we might not understand, as well as historical interpretations of texts. Essentially, it provides a running commentary that you can turn to should you get stuck.

What’s the right study Bible for me?

Choosing a study Bible, like choosing any Bible, can be difficult. There are a number of terrific versions available, so to some degree it comes down to preference. Nevertheless, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering which study Bible to invest in: [Read more…]

What’s on your to-read pile?

Every so often I like to share a few titles on my reading pile. Here’s a quick look at what’s currently on tap:

pressgram-readingpile

Image via Pressgram

If you can’t see all the titles, they are:

  • The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Explore the Divine Mystery of Human Origins by Tim Stafford (Amazon)
  • Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (Westminster | Amazon)
  • The Unfolding Mystery by Edward Clowney (Westminster | Amazon)
  • The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod (Westminster | Amazon)
  • Fight: A Christian Case for Non-violence by Preston Sprinkle (Amazon)
  • Greek for the Rest of Us: The Essentials of Biblical Greek (Second Edition) by William D. Mounce (Amazon)

What’s on your to-read pile?

9 questions to ask when studying the Bible

studying-the-bible

One of the things I love about the Puritans is their commitment to the study of Scripture. When you read the works of the Puritans (and those heavily influenced by them), like Richard Baxter, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards and so many others, it’s clear that they thought deeply about the Scriptures and their application in a way that many of us—even the most committed—struggle to in the same fashion. According to Allan Harman in Matthew Henry – His Life and Influence, their approach basically took into consideration the following questions (I’ve included my own commentary with each):

1. What do these words actually mean?

This might seem incredibly obvious, but it’s worth noting that in periods prior to the Reformation, many Christian teachers interpreted Scripture allegorically (which is fine to do when the Scriptures themselves give you the freedom to do so). But one problem with this approach is that it can quickly lead to the obscuring of the author’s intended message. Whatever conclusions we come to about a text, we have to start with what the author originally intended his audience to hear.

2. What light do other Scriptures throw on this text?

No passage of Scripture should be interpreted in a vacuum. Doing so rarely leads to a right conclusion about the author’s intent in writing it and the passage’s application for us today. When we come across texts that seem to conflict with one another (say, for example, John 1:1 and Deut. 6:4), we need to remember that if the Bible is truly inspired by God, if God is its ultimate source, then, generally speaking, there is no apparent conflict that can’t be explained without jumping through too many hoops (even if it’s simply acknowledging the truth of Deut 29:29).

3. Where and how does it fit into the total biblical revelation?

Just as a passage of Scripture should be interpreted in light of the author’s original intent and other relevant passages of Scripture, we also have to be careful to make sure we’re clear on how it fits into the “big story” of the Bible.

4. What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?

This is a wonderful diagnostic question for us because, just like the ones prior, it leads us closer to the point of all Scripture. This is where so much of our interpretation falls short today, where we put ourselves as the primary object of every text, where the Bible always and consistently puts God as primary and truths we learn about ourselves in the process are always in light of our understanding of God. If our understanding of a text isn’t first and foremost leading us to a greater understanding of the God who inspired it to be written, then we’re probably off in our interpretation.

5. How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?

For me, this is probably the most crucial question—if as Jesus said, all Scripture is about Him (cf. Luke 22:37; 24:44; John 5:39), then it is our duty to make the connection to the gospel plain for our hearers and/or readers.

6. What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure?

The Puritans were unrelenting about the need for application in teaching. And this is the first point reminds us that there is a response that the text demands. Our job is to find out what it is. The following questions drill deeper into this one.

7. For what practical purpose do they stand in Scripture?

All the truth contained within Scripture is there to train us in godliness that we may be equipped for every good work (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). Therefore, there’s always going to be a practical takeaway for us.

8. How do they apply to myself and others in our own actual situation?

This isn’t “what does the text mean to me” but “how does this text apply to my specific situation.” Some passages aren’t immediately applicable, and thus stand as “preventative medicine” for the day in which they are required.

9. To what present and human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?

This is the most important question we can ask when it comes to right application; there is no human condition that isn’t fundamentally addressed in the Word of God because it all stems from one root (the Fall). And ultimately, our primary response and application is always to repent and believe the gospel. Train-wrecked marriages, work issues, parenting… all of it can and is centered in the gospel, and that should be our primary call to application.

While these questions are quite simple, the answers we find by studying the Bible in light of them is extremely helpful.

What questions do you use to assist your study of Scripture?