Did you ever wonder what Jesus’ contemporaries understood about the Messiah or how they missed him? With the advantage of hindsight, it seems so obvious that he was the fulfillment of all the prophesies. How did they miss it?
But we start deductively, knowing who Jesus is from the NT and therefore seeing the clear proof in the Old Testament prophesies. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King begins with an inductive approach, looking at the texts and seeing where they lead us. In examining the evidence, Jesus the Messiah assumes that the NT has not been written (giving us the deductive advantage). Rather, it uses only Hebrew writings, asking how those passages of promise were read in light of the whole. It provides a gradual unfolding, moving progressively from implicit to explicit. It wasn’t until the time of Jesus that all of the key elements were in place to make a unity of it all. Jesus’ life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension finally completed the messianic puzzle. It just wasn’t clear until Jesus pulled it together.
The book is divided into three parts, which together make an excellent case for the messiahship of Jesus :
*Promises of a King, with contextual and canonical trajectories from the OT.
*Expectations of a King, focusing on the messianic promises evident in later extra-biblical but Jewish writings.
* Coming of a King, concentrating on christological readings of the First Testament.
This is not a book for just anyone, although it is for anyone who is willing to invest a little sweat equity. It wrestles with the historical, theological, and literary aspects of prophesy. At a minimum, you need to be fairly well versed in Scripture and hermeneutics. The authors’ goal is to help readers comprehend and appreciate the dynamics of messianic prophesy and fulfillment. Every messianic passage is exegeted, providing an excellent reference for pastors, Bible study leaders, and the curious. So far I’ve used to to simply check out a prophesy in a passage I’m teaching. It’s a great reference if you don’t want to wade through the entire thing.
I must confess that I had a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous, with a high quality semi-slick paper and color illustrations, charts, and maps. It’s well foot-noted and just excellent. But it’s so excellent that I had a hard time reading it. I read with a pencil, ruler, and post-it notes, thoroughly annotating as I go. This book was just too pretty to deface. But I got over it, and loved it. Thanks Kregel Academic.
April 28, 2013 | Comments Off
Sheryl Giesbrecht’s life sounds a lot like mine. Maybe a lot like yours, too. Maybe like someone you are ministering to. Do you ever get the idea that your lot is somehow harder than everyone else’s? I do. I compare my problems with my friend’s successes. I compare my not-so-good health to my friend who can walk four miles a day. And yes, I always come up short.
Why do we do this? Why do we think, “I’m the only one…” You know, we aren’t alone. Elijah whined the same thing to God in 1 Kings 19:10 following the biggest event of his life which was followed by a threat on his life. He ran away, and when God asked what he was doing there in the middle of the desert, “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” Do you ever feel this way? I sure do. I try so hard to do all the right things but feel as if I’m getting slapped down at every turn.
So what does this have to do with Sheryl? She’s written a very accessible book called Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down. On one level, it’s a chronicle of a life much like yours and mine. That is, a life full of twists and turns, dips and bumps. And a few head-on crashes. The kind of life that makes us want to throw in the towel, crawl under the broom tree with Elijah, and whine: “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (I Kings 19:4). Instead, Sheryl offers lessons and principles she learned along the way that put a bounce into her falls.
With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this would be a great study guide for a women’s group, especially for women who are facing life’s challenges. (Uh, yeah, all of us…) It would be useful in a recovery group or even a jail ministry. The truth is, we all face a whole lot more in life that we thought we signed up for. Sheryl’s book offers not only hope, but also practical strategies for becoming victorious.
You can learn more about Sheryl and her book at the LitFuse Group, which provided this book as part of Sheryl’s blog tour.
April 16, 2013 | Comments Off
Last month I reviewed Sue Edwards’ Bible Study on Revelation. This month this busy woman has released a study on the book of Ephesians as part of Kregel Publications’ Discover Together series.
This insightful Bible study uses the example of Paul’s church in Ephesus to show readers how they can be victorious Christians, living in God’s Word, and free from sin. Like the other studies in the Discovery series, the Ephesians edition includes tips for both individual or group use, inspirational sidebars, and short, 3-5 minute teaching videos. Scan the video QR code in the book with a smart phone or visit the series website to watch Sue provide historical and cultural background, teach important truths found in each week’s lesson, or ask thoughtful questions to encourage deeper discussion. There is also a free leader’s guide available online.
You can also join the online Bible study (4/15 -5/7) with Sue Edwards! And invite your friends to join you.
Sue will be posting weekly on the Year of Discovery Facebook Page and interacting with groups and individuals around the country going through the study at the same time. Women will be able to discuss the study with each other and ask questions via Facebook. Edwards will be going through the Ephesians study April 15 – June 17 online study. The study kicked off with a Facebook launch party!
Completing each lesson requires about one-and-a-half hours. Readers still receive in-depth Bible study but with a minimum time commitment. For those who desire a more thorough study, including an opportunity to learn more about the history, culture and geography related to the Bible, Edwards has provided “Digging Deeper” questions. Answering these questions may require outside resources such as an atlas, Bible dictionary or concordance and challenge readers to examine complex theological issues and differing views more closely.
This book was provided by LitFuse.
April 2, 2013 | Comments Off
Wow! Wow! WOW! Did I say, “Wow!” First of all, I love the book of Hebrews. I’ve taught it and would teach it again in a minute. Especially with this book. Kregel Academic has several of these charts books, but I’ve never seen one before. You can be sure that from now on, a Charts book will be my first stop. So why do I love it?
(Remember, I’m a geek…) Charts on the Book of Hebrews by Herbert W. Bateman IV is 266 pages of charts. Charts on the book of Hebrews. Charts on the various theories of authorship. Charts on destination, recipients, and dating. Charts on genre and structure. Charts on canonicity. Charts on Old Testament quotes and allusions. Charts on the Jewish Cultic System. Charts on the Second Temple and the priesthood. Charts on theological themes in Hebrews. Charts on interpretive issues and textual issues. And more. Much more.
The thing I love about the chart structure is that there are no wasted words. No prose to wade through. When I’m prepping to lead a study, I seldom have time to read or even skim through a bunch of commentaries. And even if I did, how would I fit in all I’ve learned? (I always over-prepare and then am frustrated I can’t share it all). With this book, I can scan for the info I need. Quickly. And if I take it to group with me, I have a handy, easy-to-use reference.
Check it out. It you’re a serious (or even semi-serious) bible study leader, you will love this book.
I often have a hard time finding materials for discipleship, especially discipleship aimed at motivating lifestyle changes. It’s just too easy to hide under “looking good” and “sounding good” these days. Wendy Alsup challenges this mindset with her book, The Gospel-Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood Through the Lens of the Gospel.
She suggests that we all have hidden problems, even while looking like (pretending like) we have it all together. The perceived need to do this, she says, is the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the Gospel. That is, the gulf between biblical promises and real life. Interesting. This is a concept I struggle with, and it’s where I’ve been living for the past several years as I contend to receive healing for my hip. How do I live a victorious, godly life in the midst of an ongoing challenge like this? And I know I’m not the only person facing such a challenge.Wendy addresses this tension straight on as she draws us back to God as our everything.
She also takes on the biblical feminist movement by teaching on the Hebrew term ezer, which means helper and is one of the names attributed to the Holy Spirit. She teaches us how to be biblical women in this highly honored position of helper without being doormats.
I would use this with a small group of women who want more of Jesus and more out of life. It’s an easy read, with a comfortable layout. But it’s also deep enough to generate good discussions. It would be perfect for a book group or small discipleship group.
I was invited to review this book by Litfuse Publicity Group.
March 25, 2013 | Comments Off
Is your small group considering a study on the book of Revelation? If so, you might want to consider a new study guide written by Sue Edwards, who also wrote the study on 1 Peter I reviewed last year. Revelation: Discovering Life for Today and Eternity is written for women, as are all of Sue’s studies. The content certainly doesn’t limit itself to women, but the book is probably a little too pretty for men. Seriously, it’s a beautiful teal and white design that will delight you as you study.
Sue has taken an interesting approach to this study of Revelation. She covers only the first three chapters (the letters to the seven churches) and the last two. While I always prefer to study a whole book, this approach certainly makes Revelation more accessible to those who don’t want to get caught up in all the judgments and wild stuff. It also keeps the book to nine lessons, which is more accessible for most groups. Since Sue writes from a pre-trib eschatology, she finds the middle of the book of little interest to Christians. I have to disagree with her here.
Published by Kregel Publications, the book contains QR codes that link to YouTube videos for short teachings. I like this because group members can watch on their own time, leaving group time for discussion and interaction. The questions contain a good mix of objective, interpretive, and application questions nicely blended throughout the study, as well as interesting historical notes and comments. Like the other Discover Together studies, this one offers tiered questions to allow readers to choose a depth of study that fits with their individual lifestyles or schedules, even if they vary by the week, month or season. She references other books, but not so much that you feel as if you’re flipping all over the bible. A free leaders’ guide is also available online. All in all, this is an interesting study. Take a look at it.
February 5, 2013 | Comments Off
What commentaries do you use when preparing for your small group? I usually pull several from my well-stocked shelf. Then I spend hours preparing for an hour teaching and discussion. Yep, overkill. Almost all the time. It’s a challenge because I love studying and could spend my whole week perusing every book I own. But who has that kind of time to invest in preparing for a weekly group?
As a regular reviewer, I was offered a book of my choice from Kregel Academic last fall. I usually get their latest offerings, but this time I was allowed to go to the backlist. Difficult choice. They have so many wonderful books I’d love to own. But I finally settled on a book I think will help me prepare for group in a reasonable way. It’s Barnes’ Notes of the New Testament by Albert Barnes. Weighing in at 1761 pages, it promises to be the only New Testament commentary I need.
So who is Albert Barnes, you ask? Albert Barnes (1798-1870) received academic degrees from Hamilton College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and then pastored various Presbyterian Churches in post-Revolution New England. This commentary is the work of his 37-year pastorate in Philadelphia and has sold over two million copies in various editions.
Based on the KJV, which is included in the commentary, this book offers a verse-by-verse commentary on the entire New Testament. The middle column lists the estimated date of the occurrence for the Gospels and of writing for the rest of the books. The middle column also includes cross-references. The extensive notes offer a little bit of everything—history, geography, academic and pastoral comments, clarification of the Greek without getting too technical, and even midrashim from rabbis— making this book a one stop shop. What amazes me is that this was all done before computers!
My only complaint about the book is its extraordinarily small print. But then, how many more pages could I carry? One thing that fascinated me is that Barnes wrote before Dispensationalism hit, so we see none of that theology in his writing. It’s unusual to read a commentary that isn’t trying to parse modern theology or at least refer to it. Yes Virginia, there was theology before 1900. Another thing that is fascinating is to read his archeological comments, telling of modern explorers or travelers who “recently” returned from the area in question — in 1823.
Maybe I’m a little geeky, but I am very much enjoying using this book. It’s offering so many fresh insights that I haven’t found in modern commentaries. And it still offers more than in can use in an hour.
January 7, 2013 | 2 Comments
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. That’s how I felt before I took New Testament Greek 1 in seminary. And frankly, it’s how I felt when I finished Greek 1. As a Bible study leader and writer, I would use the English/Greek tools and hope I was getting it right. I thought Greek 1 would give me more confidence, but I soon realized there was a lot I didn’t know and a lot more I didn’t remember when the year was over. I’ve got my textbook and several other resources, but as a busy leader, who has time to figure it out?
That’s why I was delighted to have the opportunity to review The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek: Grammar, Syntax, and Diagramming by Douglass S. Huffman (Kregel Academic, 2012). This book is intended for second year Greek students who don’t use their Greek every day. I’m not a second year Greek student, nor do I expect to be one, but I love this book. It is a handy size (5” x 7” and under ½ inch thick), so it doesn’t overwhelm me. Printed on glossy paper and in color, it gives a user-friendly impression. And it is user-friendly, sporting dozens of charts spelling out all the difficult declensions, tenses, moods, and much more. Get confused about the liquid verbs or mute ending or μι verbs? There’s a chart for that. Forgot endings for third declension? There’s a chart for that. Never really understood participles? Yep, there’s a chart for that. And that’s only the beginning.
I love the section on diagramming. I’m old enough to have learned this skill in junior high, but most of my classmates didn’t have a clue how to diagram a sentence – a skill that is almost essential in Greek. Huffman explains this well, and then goes on to show the reader how to diagram and outline sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
No, you probably won’t use this book everyday. But if you’re leading a serious bible study and have a problem word or passage, sometimes checking the Greek can help a lot. And with this book, it won’t take all day. I like that!
Question: How often do you use the languages in your personal study or leading? Is it an occasional skill, or a go-to discipline to help you go deeper? Share with us what you’ve found effective, especially if you are a lay leader.
Each article covers a different generation, from Seniors to Gen Next and everything in between. My article is called Baby Boomers: A Complex Generation: How small-group leaders can minister to the Sandwich Generation. It’s fascinating to learn about the needs and characteristics of the different generations and to see how our small groups can minister to them, whether individually or multigenerationally.
As always, downloads allow you to make up to 1,000 copies, so they are great training materials. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I want to introduce you to a great new resource managed by a good friend of mine. Mike Mack has started a discussion forum on LinkedIn called Small Group Leadership. If you’re interested in meeting small group leaders around the country, this is a wonderful resource.
I’ve known Mike since 1991 when, as an editor for The Lookout, he championed my first book, Small Group Bible Studies: How to Lead Them. In 1995, Mike founded SmallGroups.com and invited me to become one of his first writers, with monthly columns based on the original “Why Didn’t You Warn Me? Chapter in my first book. Mike sold SmallGroups.com to Dan Lentz, who sold it to Christianity Today. All three of us are now advisers to that site. Mike went on to write several books and was the editor on the Help! series, of which Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members is a part, as is his book, I’m a Leader, Now What? and Dan’s book, Let’s Get Started.
Mike has served as a small groups pastor and is now a speaker, trainer, and consultant at Small Group Leadership. You can check out all of his books and resources there. So, hop on over to LinkedIn and say hi. And tell him I sent you.