Monday, June 27, 2011

Repost: Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

I'm going to be gone this week and didn't manage to get this week's book read and its review written before I left. So I'm posting my review of a book I reviewed some time ago that I highly recommend. Enjoy!

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
by Nancy Guthrie

Hardback: 166 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Publishers
First Released: 2009

Source: copy from the publisher for a blog tour

Description from Book Cover:
In this paradigm-shifting book, Nancy Guthrie gently invites readers to lean in along with her to hear Jesus speak understanding and insight into the lingering questions we all have about the hurts of life: What was God’s involvement in this, and why did he let it happen? Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for a miracle? Can I expect God to protect me? Does God even care?

According to Nancy, these questions can either take us far from God or cause us to press into him more deeply as we search for and find the answers in His Word. It is as we hear Jesus speak into our confusion that we come to clarity about the promises of the gospel we may have misapplied and the purposes of God we may have misunderstood.

In Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, Nancy shares the answers she has found as she has heard Jesus speaking promises ("My grace is all you need"), imperatives ("Be healed!"), and prayers ("Thy will be done") into the sorrow in her life.

Book Review:
Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow is a Christian nonfiction book that answers the questions asked by Christians who have experienced deep sorrow and wonder why God allowed it. This book deepens the reader's understanding of the Bible and our view of God. It doesn't give easy, pat answers but digs deeper in search of truth and never denies your pain. This book focuses on Bible scripture and on Christ, and the insights she points out will bring comfort and healing to your deep sorrows.

This book was written by someone who knows deep sorrow (through the death of two children), but the book is for anyone who has ever struggled with disappointment, heart-break, or hurt of any sort. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone.

Excepts from the Introduction:
It is found in John 6, where John records that many of Jesus’ followers had turned away and deserted him because some of his teachings were so hard for them to swallow. They were offended by what Jesus said, so they simply walked away from him. He didn’t meet their immediate expectations, and he seemed to ask of them more than they wanted to give. They were far more interested in what they could get from Jesus than in getting more of Jesus. And when Jesus made it clear that what he wanted to give them was more of himself, they simply weren’t interested any longer. At that point, as the throngs that had been following him began to slip away, Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

I try to imagine the drama and emotion of that moment as Jesus said out loud what they were probably all thinking to themselves and as he called those closest to him to a decision. Simon Peter spoke up for the group, saying to Jesus, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (verse 68).

As my pastor read the Scripture, I could relate to those in the story who found some of Jesus’ words difficult to understand and accept, and simply walked away. Perhaps you can too, as you have struggled to reconcile your understanding of what you’ve read about in the Bible, and your expectations of how God cares for those he loves, with your own difficult reality.


Jesus said that we should listen closely to his words. “Pay close attention to what you hear,” he said. “The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Mark 4:24-25).

And so I have to ask you, Do you want to listen closely to Jesus so that he will give you more understanding? Will you open your heart and mind to hear him speak into your sorrow? The words written on the pages of your Bible are not just detached religious dialogue that fails to intersect with your difficult reality. They are God’s personal message to you.

Read the full introduction.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Messianic Torah Devotional by Kevin Geoffrey

book cover

Messianic Torah Devotional
by Kevin Geoffrey

ISBN-13: 0-9785504-4-7
Trade Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Perfect Word Publishing
Released: 2008

Source: Bought.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Presenting the five books of Moses from a distinctly Messianic Jewish perspective, the Messianic Torah Devotional will forever change the way you see your relationship with God. The Torah is far more than a set of stories about the Patriarchs and the minutiae of ancient Jewish laws--it is the God-breathed instruction given to the descendants of Israel to ensure their success as His unique, set-apart people. The topics of Torah--from the fundamental to the fiery--are sure to stir you toward a life of unparalleled holiness and commitment to the Master, Yeshua.

Using the framework of the Torah portions read in the traditional Jewish annual reading cycle, the Messianic Torah Devotional explores Israel's distinguishing covenant as a rich source of nourishment for the hungry disciple of Messiah.

My Review:
Messianic Torah Devotional is a devotional book authored by a Messianic Jew. It follows the Torah portions read in the traditional Jewish annual reading cycle (provided in the back of the book), so there are 54 devotionals covering the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It will last for a year if you read the several chapters (around 4 or 5 chapters) in the reading portion during the week and then read the devotional at the end of the week. However, you can read through it faster than that.

The devotional provides a commentary on the Scripture reading, which you read using your own Bible. It's intent is to encourage the reader to a greater trust and knowledge of God. Each devotional is three pages long and includes several quotes from the reading portion, but it's translated in super-literal way. This translation only obscures the text, in my opinion, but it's not really a problem since supposedly you've already read the same text using the translation of your choice. At the end of each devotional, there is a suggested prayer.

I thought that, overall, this devotional made some good points about the text--how we're supposed to respond to God versus how we often do and why. If you like devotionals but aren't highly familiar with the first five books of the Bible, this could be a great devotional to try.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 15-17
[Please note that some actual Hebrew words and letters are used in the devotional heading and Scripture quotes, but I haven't included them in my excerpt.]

Sarah's Life
B'reshiyt (Genesis) 23:1-25:18

"And [the servant] said, 'ADONAI, God of my master, Av'raham, cause [me] to meet--please--before me this day (and show grace to my master, Av'raham; behold, I am standing by the fountain of water, and daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. And may it be, [that] the young woman to whom I say, "Please, hold out your pitcher, that I [may] drink," and she says, "Drink, and I [will] water your camels also"), her You have decided for Your servant, for Yitz'chak; and by it I [will] know....'" B'reshiyt 24:12-14

We tend to play games with God, don't we? Sometimes, we treat Him like a magic eight-ball, shaking Him around until we get the answer we want. We think that by mixing our circumstances together with our prayers, the Lord will somehow give us a sign through it--something to hang our hopes on--because otherwise, we just can't seem to hear Him.

So, how do we account for the servant of Av'raham? Surely, he concocted this scenario to figure out how to choose Yitz'chak's wife...or did he? "He is sending His messenger before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there." (24:7)

There's a big difference between grasping for direction in random occurrences or self-fulfilling prophesies, and truly being directed by the Lord. He can and does guide us by giving us specific signs to follow. The question is, do we know ADONAI well enough to recognize His signs when we see them?

"And it came to pass, before he had finished speaking [to his heart], that Riv'kah...came out, with her pitcher on her shoulder...." B'reshiyt 24:15

Following a sign from God is certainly important, but how can we tell the difference between the guidance of the Lord and our own wishful thinking? In the case of Av'raham's servant, it was easy: even before he had finished entreating the Lord, his prayers were answered!

We can miss the signs and direction of the Lord for many reasons, but the most likely culprit is that we have already made up our minds about the way we think things should go. Perhaps we ought to give God a chance to show us His way first--just in case He has a better ideas.

When we ask God for direction in our life and it seems like our prayers aren't even being heard, let us remember how easy it was for the servant of Av'raham. Maybe the reason we have so much trouble discerning answers from the Lord is that we're praying with pre-laid plans in our head. Isn't it possible that the Creator of the universe just might have something else in mind?

"And the man bowed [down] and worshipped ADONAI, and said, 'Blessed is ADONAI, God of my master, Av'raham, who has not forsaken His loving-kindness and His faithfulness toward my master...." B'reshiyt 24:26-27b

When our prayers appear to go unanswered, we're often quick to complain. But what about the times when God answers clearly--how swift are we to bless Him with worship, thanksgiving and praise? Aren't we more likely to forget the Lord until the next time we want something from Him? To a God who provides for our every need, that's really not much of a blessing.

Answered prayer is one way that ADONAI shows "His loving-kindness and His faithfulness toward" us. It proves that He not only remembers us, but that He cares enough about our daily needs to be both the compass and destination on this journey we call Life.

So, when ADONAI responds to our requests, let us not forget to be faithful to Him in return. Surely, bowing down in worship and glorifying Him with praise isn't giving too much of a blessing to a God who answers prayer...


ADONAI, I bless Your Name--You are glorious and worthy of my worship. Teach me, Father, to run to You in prayer when I am in need, and to not forget You when You show Yourself faithful. Make me Your servant, ADONAI, that by signs I may know Yor ways--that I will not set my mind according to my own desires, but clearly see Your hand of loving-kindness. I speak to my heart right now, Father, "Show me Your ways, that I may follow You all of my days...."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Commands of Christ, Series 2

book cover

Commands of Christ:
The Curriculum of the Great Commission, Series 2

ISBN-13: 0-916888-24-X
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Institute in Basic Life Principles
Released: 2002

Link to Publisher's Website

Source: Bible study group at a church I attend.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
The Commands of Christ series is a set of seven study books focusing on 49 general commands that Jesus gave.

The books may be used in a group setting or as a personal study. Each lesson includes an in-depth commentary, study questions, a character quality and songs that amplify the command, questions and commitments for personal application, and a journal page for recording your own insights and progress as you incorporate Christ’s commands into your life.

My Review:
I was involved in a small group Bible study which used this book. We had a lot of good, in-depth discussions based on the study's commentary and in coming up with specific examples of how one could put these commands of Christ into real life practice. I'd highly recommend this study to other small groups. You can also do it as a personal study.

I felt this study did a good job in exploring what the whole Bible (both Old and New Testaments) had to say on the subject. For example, in the first lesson on "Keeping Your Word," they start with the question "Why did God deliver Abraham and Sarah in spite of the lie that they told Pharaoh and Abimelech and yet destroy Ananias and Sapphira for the lie that they told Peter?" Then the study went on to explore the similarities and differences in the situations and answer why.

The verses under discussion and related verses were fully quoted in the book so you don't have to look anything up. The commentary included relevant cultural background information and short word studies to further clarify our understanding of the verses. At the end of each study, there was a page of personal application questions and another page with suggested take-away resolutions and a place for personal notes.

The seven commands covered in the seven lessons of this book were Keep Your Word (Matthew 5:33-37); Go the Second Mile (Matthew 5:38-42); Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:43-45); Be Perfect (Matthew 5:46-48); Give, Pray, Fast Secretly (Matthew 6:1-18); Lay Up Treasures (Matthew 6:19-21); and Seek God's Kingdom (Matthew 6:24-33).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Keep Your Word
let your yes be yes, and your no be no

"Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

Study Question: Why did God deliver Abraham and Sarah in spite of the lie that they told Pharaoh and Abimelech and yet destroy Ananias and Sapphira for the lie that they told Peter?

Why is keeping your word so important?
Most people do not begin to comprehend the power or the consequences of simple little words. Scripture states that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).

Because words are so important, God makes every person accountable for every word. "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by they words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).

The command of Jesus to reject any hint of lying or deception is vital for every disciple, because the very nature of God is truth, and those who represent Him must live and speak truth. "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight" (Proverbs 12:22).

In Scripture, two accounts of lying reveal important insights into the nature and consequences of not being completely truthful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Galatians by Thomas R. Schreiner

book cover

(Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
by Thomas R. Schreiner

ISBN-13: 9780310243724
Hardback: 432 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: December 14, 2010

Source: Won from giveaway on Koinonia Blog.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
Designed for the pastor and Bible teacher, this series brings together commentary features rarely gathered together in one volume. Written by notable evangelical scholars, each volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series treats the literary context and structure of the passage in the original Greek. The series consistently provides the main point, an exegetical outline, verse-by-verse commentary, and theology in application in each section of every commentary.

Critical scholarship informs each step but does not dominate the commentary, allowing readers to concentrate on the biblical author’s message as it unfolds. While primarily designed for those with a basic knowledge of biblical Greek, all who strive to understand and teach the New Testament will find these books beneficial.

In this volume, Thomas R. Schreiner offers pastors, students, and teachers a focused resource for reading Galatians. Through the use of graphic representations of translations, succinct summaries of main ideas, exegetical outlines and other features, Schreiner presents Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians with precision and accuracy. Because of this series’ focus on the textual structure of the scriptures, readers will better understand the literary elements of Galatians, comprehend the author’s revolutionary goals, and ultimately discover their vital claims upon the church today.

My Review:
This commentary on Galatians is a thick but easy read. You don't need to know biblical Greek to follow this commentary since it focused mainly on how the author and various other people understood the verse and the problems with the various other understandings. Since the author argued (in the verse-by-verse section) for how I've always understood the verses, I really didn't learn that much new beyond how other people have viewed the verses. If you're interested in "critical scholarship" or are searching for answers to what's wrong with another person's interpretation that sounds wrong to you, then this is the book to read.

The commentary had an extensive introduction which included: who the author was, who the letter was sent to (with "for" and "against" arguments for the two views), when Galatians was written, the main views about the situation that Paul was writing about (as can be gleaned from his letter), and the overall structure of the letter.

Each chapter then covered a related group of verses. The author looked at the context of these verses, how they fit in the overall theme of the letter, and the main idea of the verses. These sections included a summary of what had been said in the previous chapters so you can jump to whatever verses interest you. Next, he laid out the Bible verses in a diagram showing the flow of thought in the passage (with tags like: setting, problem, solution, fulfillment).

After that, he examined the text. Each verse or part of the verse was given in English and then in the original Greek. The author then commented about his and other interpretations of the verses and the problems with the other interpretations. He also included some about notable tenses or word meanings and cultural or historical background information. He gave excellent footnoting to tell where the information came from or to comment more in-depth about something in the text. At the end of each chapter, there were a couple pages discussing how to apply the message in these verses to modern life.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt.