Sunday, October 12, 2014

Anxious by Amy Simpson

Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of WorryAnxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry by Amy Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of us are prone to worry. And what's not to worry about? The world we live in is increasingly scary, difficult and uncertain. But as Christians we know a God who is above all of that. In this book, the author takes us through how worry affects us, not only emotionally but physically. And then walks us through the Bible and the many admonitions by God to not worry but put our trust in Him instead. She examines several examples throughout Scripture of how God's people faced seemingly impossible circumstances, yet God overcame and worked through them.
Ultimately, worry comes down to our theology and what we believe about God. If we are worrying, we are not trusting God. This book gives a rundown of who God is and why we can put our trust in Him.
"We, who are among the most comfortable Christians in history, have no business embracing fear and letting worry drain us of the strength God gives. It's time for us to repent of worry, recognize we can make a different choice, and pursue the frightening freedom and baffling peace of trust in God."
Examples are given of what it was like for people during the Bible times who were asked by God to trust Him. They didn't have the written Scriptures like we do. How much more should we be able to trust God, having the evidence of His faithfulness throughout the Bible?
"This is not about simply 'handing our worries over to God'; it's about understanding how incredibly powerful and trustworthy God is, how much higher his ways are than ours, how ridiculous it is for us to cling to the illusion of control and the fear of what is small in God's view. It's about putting our concerns in their proper place, in relationship to God's concerns. It's about who God is, not who we are. It means taking seriously Paul's instruction to 'let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think' (Rom 12:2)."
This short, easy-to-read book packs a good punch in the battle against worry that we face. Reasons to worry abound, but reasons to trust God abound even more. While not taking lightly the struggle of worry, the author reminds us that God is all-powerful, compassionate and in control, Someone who is trustworthy and has proved that over and over. A recommended read for those who struggle with worry, offering encouragement to grow in our trust in God.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith: A Bible Study on James for Women by Keri Folmar

Having done the Philippians study by Keri Folmar, the James study follows a similar format.

Using the inductive process of observation, interpretation and application, this study guide asks questions for each stage. The symbol of an eye marks observation questions - asking what the text is saying. A cross-like symbol marks the interpretation questions - what do these verses mean, while a heart symbol marks the application questions - making it personal in our own lives.
I am currently doing this study with my mom, sister and sister-in-law and it's a great way to encourage each other in our study of God's Word, sharing what we've learned from James and from the questions that this study guide asks.
For those who sometimes feel stuck in trying to study the Bible on their own, this guide is a great resource to use in helping to ask questions of the text, using cross-references to draw out the truths, and getting personal with the application questions so that one doesn't just walk away without seeing how God's Word is applicable to our daily lives. James is also a very practical book, putting our faith into action. Another great study for digging into the Bible!

*I received a copy of this Bible Study free from the publisher Cruciform Press in exchange for my review.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Schaeffer on the Christian Life by William Edgar

Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural SpiritualitySchaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of the books I've read in the Theologians on the Christian Life series, this one is my favorite. I was drawn into it immediately in hearing the story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer's life. The author is one who went to L'Abri, the ministry that the Schaeffers started, and knew the Schaeffers personally, so personal anecdotes are woven into the story.
I knew a little bit about Schaeffer from college, when I took "Introduction to Fine Arts" and we read the book How Should We Then Live? and watched the film. At the time, I thought it was fairly boring. :-) My interests have changed a bit since then and I'm much more interested in culture and worldviews, so reading about Schaeffer is much more fascinating. We already own several of Schaeffer's books that I have yet to read but want to; so in reading this book, I became even more eager to read the Schaeffer books that we have (and plan to dive into The God Who Is There shortly).
While the book covers biographical info about the Schaeffers and how the ministry of L'Abri started, it also talks about Francis' views of the Christian life. Much of his views can be found in his book True Spirituality. I found it interesting since I recently read a book on John Wesley and his view on Christian perfectionism, that this book addressed Schaeffer's disagreement with Wesley on Christians reaching perfectionism in this lifetime.
I would definitely recommend this book to learn more about Francis Schaeffer and the ministry of L'Abri, which was influential in many lives over the years. These paragraphs sum up the book nicely:
"A number of years ago, McKendree Langley wrote an important book on Abraham Kuyper, titled The Practice of Political Spirituality. This title well expresses how Francis Schaeffer viewed public life. For him all of life, including politics, was a matter of spirituality, just as were prayer life, Bible reading, and the like. Not that he confused the church and the state, as we have seen. Nor that church life should be ignored, or that doing politics, writing a poem, making a scientific discovery, raising a family, and so on are strictly the same kinds of activities. yet in a deep sense, they are spiritual activities. For Schaeffer, then, spirituality was not restricted to the special practices we often associate with religious devotion.
Here we can emulate the Schaeffers' approach, without necessarily living exactly as they did. The work of L'Abri may not be absolutely unique, but such a community-with its approach to prayer, to holding seminars, to discussing major issues around the meal table-is a special model for engaging culture. Other models might look different, though they are no less valid. I know of seminaries and churches that have culture and vocation programs, and of other para-church works that are focused on a particular realm of life, such as science, politics, or the arts. What we should take away from the Schaeffers' teaching and example, and indeed, from the ongoing work of L'Abri around the world, is that Christ is Lord of all of life, and because of that, there is no realm of life not subject to our scrutiny and to our calling as Christians in the world. For many, this message and this practice represent what is so wonderful, so exciting, about the Schaeffer legacy."

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wesley on the Christian Life by Fred Sanders

Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in LoveWesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love by Fred Sanders
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure on this book as Wesley was Arminian and I am a Calvinist. :-) But the book brings out that he was very big on the gospel and bringing people to faith - justification was by faith alone. He also seemed to work well with others, even if they didn't agree theologically. Overall, I had a hard time reading this book, which is why it is only 3 stars instead of 4. There were parts I enjoyed but other parts just didn't grab me.
John Wesley was a huge influence in the Great Awakening and revival of the 1700's. Though he remained an Anglican all his life, it appears he was influential in the Methodist denomination getting started. I did not know that his marriage was an unhappy one or that he never had children. He also was a theologian on the book of 1 John and taught that Christians should ever be striving onwards toward perfection. Yet he made a clear distinction between justification and sanctification.
For those who are interested in learning more about what John Wesley taught (and also some of his brother Charles' hymns), this would be a good book to give an overview of Wesley's teachings. I did not agree with all of what Wesley taught, but he was passionate about people getting saved.

"It is crucial to remember that Wesley took the doctrine of original sin and trumpeted it to an eighteenth century that preferred to believe in the essential goodness of humanity, the inevitable march of progress, and the bright future of decent people rightly governed. Wesley begged to differ. Even the otherwise sound churchmen of his day preached a message that was too weak and too soft, too much like a series of recommendations for how to behave better...The weakness of their preaching was rooted in their failure to understand how bad humanity really was."
"We are not basically good, with a few external failings. We are radically fallen...Wesley taught that original sin is 'the fundamental point which differences heathenism from Christianity.' In contrast to all forms of paganism, even the highest and noblest forms, Christianity alone has an accurate understanding of the depth and extent of human sin, of 'the entire depravation of the whole human nature...' The human predicament goes to the heart of man."
"If we were only a little bit sick, we would need only a little bit of salvation. But being desperately disordered and sick all the way to the heart, we stand in need of true religion, heart religion."

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Studying the Bible for Yourself: Application

And now we come to the step that most people try to jump to right away when reading and studying the Bible: application. This is where we take the interpretation we have found, the timeless principle from the passage, and apply it to our own lives for growth and transformation.
While interpreting a passage is focused on what the meaning is, application takes that meaning and puts it into action. Some questions to ask to determine application:
Who should I be?
How should I think?
What should I do?
Where should I go?
Whom should I teach?

Other questions that can be asked are:
Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a verse to memorize?
Is there a command to obey?
Is there a prayer to repeat?
Is there a condition to meet?
Is there a challenge to face?

To help with application, look at the timeless truth in the passage in the original situation. What are the key elements there - the people, the place, relationships and ideas? Then find the contemporary situation that would parallel the original: the key people, relationships and places. Take the timeless truth and relate it to the contemporary situation that would parallel the original.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is profitable for (1) doctrine, (2) reproof, (3) correction, and (4) instruction in righteousness. How does this timeless principle from this passage provide us with these areas: doctrine - what to believe, reproof - behavior or belief that is sinful, correction - what needs to change to be made right, and instruction - how to live in light of God's truth?

Application is meant to conform us to the Word of God and to make us more like Christ. How can the meaning of the passage - the timeless truth - do that in our lives? The best way to then learn the application and make it part of our lives is to teach it to others, helping them to learn and grow as well. Studying God's Word is best done in community, sharing with others so that we can learn together and keep each other on track with what the Bible is saying.

*Source material for this blog series came from a variety of sources.
Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
Credo House Bible Boot Camp video series (link is to the first session, there are 4 parts)
Secret Church: How to Study the Bible series
How to Read the Bible by A.J. Conyers (out of print, but seemingly available used)

Previous Posts in this series:
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Introduction
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Genre and Context
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Observation
Studying the Bible for Yourself: Interpretation

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Theology for the Church by Daniel Akin

A Theology for the ChurchA Theology for the Church by Daniel L. Akin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the revised edition that was originally published in 2007. Designed primarily to be used as a textbook or for pastors' reference, it is a large, comprehensive volume. As such, I will likely be reading this over the course of the next year. As a reference book, it doesn't need to be read straight-through.
The introduction is extensive and lays out the methodology and reason for the importance of theology in the life of the church and thus the Christian. The premise of the book is that Scripture determines theology, for Scripture reveals who God is, which is the basis of our theology.
Natural and special revelation are discussed, including how the Bible portrays general revelation (for example, creation of the world by God in Genesis 1). Special revelation deals with Scripture and its authority and includes the different views of inspiration.
Covering the following areas of systematic theology - the study of God, humanity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church and last things, each chapter asks the questions: What does the Bible say on this topic? What has the church believed on this topic?  How does all of it fit together? and How does this topic (doctrine) impact the church today? The chapters are written by different authors.
The writing is good and this makes for a great reference work on theology - coming at it from the 4 questions mentioned above. It also makes for a great textbook on the subject of theology. A recommended resource for studying theology, for it starts with what the Bible says about a particular doctrine, then brings the history of the church to bear on the subject and concludes with how that doctrine impacts the church of today.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher B&H Academic in exchange for my review.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the WorldBonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World by Stephen J. Nichols
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I couldn't get into this book. The writing didn't really grab me and didn't seem to flow. I tried flipping through it to look at different sections but nothing jumped out at me to pull me back into the book. It seems to be a good overview of what Bonhoeffer taught and believed. Starting off with his christology and then going into his views on living in community, which many know of because of his book Life Together. It then breaks down the different disciplines of the Christian life: the Word, prayer, and confession.
Some other topics are covered for the rest of the book. For those interested in Bonhoeffer, they may find this a good overview. The end of the book gives the books that he wrote and also books that were written about him. I wanted to like this book but just couldn't get into it.

*I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for a review.