Would you like to be reading your Bible more?

Here’s an excellent way to do just that. I have been blessed daily by reading the Chronological Life Application Study Bible.

Here’s the review I wrote at Amazon.com two days  ago…

Excellent helps for informed and enjoyable Bible reading.

Well-balanced, insightful, and helpful commentary through the entire Bible–like getting little mini-sermons or devotionals. It’s like an ongoing Bible devotional. Very well-written and a pleasure to read.

The book has been beautifully structured to put Bible aids (like maps, charts, character studies, timelines) right on the same page as the text where you can conveniently refer to them to enhance your grasp of the background information that can clarity the Scripture passages. Also, when referring to useful information in other parts of the book, you are not referred to this or that section but the exact page number.

Example: This morning I was reading the New Testament passage where Jesus refers to John the Baptist as Elijah who was to come, and the comments referred me to page 719 where I could read about Elijah, a more than half a page character study summarizing his life.

Here’s a quote from the Elijah character study I referred to in the above paragraph:

“All that happened in Elijah’s life began with the same miracle that is available to us–he responded to the miracle of being able to know God.”

When most of us read the Bible we are faced with trying to understand the culture and attitudes of ancient people (the Old Testaemnt) or first-century people (the New Testament). The aids this book provides are very useful in bridging those time-gaps and the differences between those people and us. So having the essays and charts and maps and character studies and other helps handy and reading them too can improve our understanding of the Bible text. Also, needless to say, having all the Bible stories in chronological order can be quite clarifying too.

The authors of this book did not shy away from controversy or debated sections of Scripture, and instead of a biased approach you will find explanations of various views. The reader can choose for herself which is best. But, nevertheless, the authors do often indicate their view, that is which of the alternative interpretations they conclude with are the most sound or sensible. In other words a balanced approach to commentary.

Excellent, practical, helpful sections that enhance Bible reading. And the New Living Translation is very readable. I prefer the NASB for Bible study for its more literal translation accuracy. But for an enjoyable read to get the gist of the content and action, this is a good read.

But for me–and I am not a commentary devotee for the most part–I enjoy very much the devotional commentary notes. There are techical matters covered when necessary, but also very frequently practical life-applications. These are not forced but are biblically sound and trustworthy Christian lessons from the Bible verses. They are like daily pep talks for good living.

To me, the authors are to be commended for putting together such a fine combination of a reading Bible with a virtual library of Bible reference materials.

I am reading daily through the New Testament portions, including all the notes (except charts at times) this year, and the Old Testament sections (1833 pages!) within the next two years–that’s my goal.

Highly recommended.

PS: For those of you who are not Christian, I still recommend this book. It’s perspective is never atheistic or even agnostic or in any way hostile to faith. It consistently presents a Christian view of what the Bible means. And for that reason it can be valuable to you in the sense of “What do Christians believe?” It answers that question quite well.

Do you have a favorite reading Bible?

Don’t Miss “Jesus: A Theography” by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet

It  promises to be a wonderful book for any serious Christian. It traces how Jesus can be found in all of Scripture. Jesus said: “The Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39 NLT).

I have found these authors to be among the best Bible teachers around. They are  not only doctrinally sound but especially insightful too.  Really, they are among the few I read frequently, outside of my Bible and an occasional commentary or Bible reference book.

Furthermore, they are not afraid to tackle some controversial areas of the faith, but always do so in a sensible and balanced way.  Also they are never derogatory toward specific sectors of contemporary Christianity, meaning the various Protestant denominations or Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy or others.  They will take issue with certain practices, particularly within intstitutional churches, but their overall approach is positive and Jesus-centered.

I am nearly waiting on the edge of my seat for this book to be released.  The hardback  will be available on October 2nd at Amazon, and the Kindle version on October 9th. I have pre-ordered the Kindle version. (Or, you can pre-order either now.)

I Highly recommended that you consider this book. I have been continually been blessed by the work of these fine Christian men.

P.S. New  post in the Ephesians series due Sunday, 9/20/2012.

Not to be missed books for Savvy Christian Living, Part One

I recommend the following as particularly good nourishment for a healthy Christian life…

They are, in no particular order:

Anything by Frank Viola or Leonard Sweethttp://frankviola.org/

Contemporary authors

You can read my review of Frank’s From Eternity to Here on this blog here: http://thedevotionalden.com/probably-the-best-book-ever-written-on-the-body-of-christ/

 Anything by Watchman Nee, particularly The Normal Christian Life; Sit , Walk, Stand; The Spiritual Man.  Amazing teaching.

Anything by Andrew Murray.  My favorite: With Christ in the School of Prayer.  Deep and insightful.

Anything by contemporary novelist Bill Myers. I particularly like his teen series: Dark Power Collection; Deadly Loyalty Collection; Invisible Terror Collection and Ancient Forces Collection (total 12 novelettes), and his nonfiction Dark Side of the Supernatural is a good read for anyone tempted to dabble even slightly in the occult. And his full-length novel The Face of God.

Anything by A.W. Tozer: My favorites: The Root of Righteousness; Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith; and The Pursuit of God.

Hal Lindsey’sCombat Faith and his later more lengthy treatment of the subject Faith for Earth’s Final Hour. Powerful teaching on practical faith.

I reviewed both books here: http://thedevotionalden.com/is-your-faith-up-to-the-task-2/

I’m also a fan of Oswald Chambers, his My Utmost for His Highest in particular.  I am reading his Biblical Psychology  now, and I am not only enjoying it but also I find it to be a profound and insightful teaching on our spirit and soul and body.

For solid help in interpreting your Bible, Kay Arthur. I particularly like her Discover the Bible for Yourself, as well as her book on prayer: Lord, Teach Me to Pray in 28 Days.

Is Your Faith up to the Task?

A review of two special books by Hal Lindsey

Do you find it challenging to live by faith? Do you find current events, like the threat of nuclear war, the economy,  frequent violence both in the USA and elsewhere–things like that–worrisome?

How should we as Christians view these things?  Is there a sure pathway to peace of mind? Yes, there certainly is.  Faith.

We can all easily agree that we should live by faith, and that a life of constant fear and worry is not victorious Christian living\  But what does it mean to live by faith? And, more to the point, how can we best go about it.

One of the best biblical teachers I have come across is Hal Lindsey.

Hal Lindsey became a best selling author in the 1970 with his blolckbuster book on end time events: The Late Great Planet Earth.”

Then he went on to pen at least 19 more best sellers. He majors in prophecy, but I like his books on faith best.  First, Combat Faith, 1999, and Faith for Earth’s Final Hour, 2003.

The second book repeats much of the teaching of the first, but expands the teaching contained in the first book in a more more thorough and in-depth manner.  Both contain brilliant, not-to-be missed, true-to-Scripture insights on faith and its vital role in the day-to-day life of the believer.  In things both small and great.

In both books, Lindsey looks into important Scripture portions on faith, what it is,  how it works, and how indispensable it is for effective Christian living, not to mention peace of mind.  And just as importantly, he also traces key portions of the history of God’s dealings with His people Israel–how he provided opportunity after opportunity with great patience to grow their faith.

Each lesson has obvious and practical application for all of us today.

In his first chapter, “The Age of Anxiety,” Lindsey points to unmistakable fact that Christians in our contemporary world are being persecuted and warns that this will get worse.  He concludes from this that the quintessential need of every believe in these end times is faith-training, the developed ability, through God’s grace, to trust in God no matter what our circumstances.

These books as a whole contain comprehensive teaching on faith.

Lindsay describes and portrays the type of mature faith that obtains answers to prayer, that brings peace of mind, and enables believers to experience victory after victory.  It takes work and courage and perseverance.  Not works done to earn such faith and God’s blessings, but the more challenging work of proactively believing daily.

Believing that God has always been true to His word, His promises, and steadfast in His love for us before the foundation of the world.

These are books that should be read by every Christian for how to develop a faith that will see each of us through these trouble times.

Check  out Hal Lindsey’s books.  Combat Faith for the concise version, Faith for Earth’s Final Hour for a more indepth version.

More resources:

http://www.ourlittleplace.com/trust.html

http://carm.org/verses-showing-justification-by-faith

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-faith-20-popular-scripture-quotes/

 

 

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

I have read Frank Viola’s blog posts and books for years.

And as far as I’m concerned he’s spot-on.  And I found myself agreeing easily with what N. T. Wright had to say in this interview: Frank Viola interviews N. T. Wright. Both have eye-opening, deep, biblically-sound insights on Christian living and the contemporary church. HIghly recommended.  ( I haven’t personally read any of Mr. Wright’s books, but I soon will.)

Listen to this key interview.  It’s one every Christian seeking to follow our Lord should hear.

Another not-to-be-missed message

I  recommend you give this interview a listen too: Scot McKnight Interview: “The King Jesus Gospel” & McnKnight Responds to Critics.  

 

The purest ministry

Prayer life can easily get neglected, especially private prayer.

It’s a service God requires.

Jesus doesn’t just say: “Pray!”  He assumes we will pray. He said: “When you pray…”(Matt. 6:5)

Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)

We are to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

And Paul practiced what he preached: “…we have not ceased to pray for you…” (Col. 1:9)

In this as with everything, Jesus is our model:

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears…” (Heb. 5:7)

And in the Garden of Gethsemane: “And being in agony He was praying fervently; and His sweat became like drops of  blood…” (Luke 22:44)

Prayer is hard work.

It’s often a struggle.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places…With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit. (Ephe. 6:12-18)

Consistency and perseverance count.

In my own daily life, to remain consistent in prayer is a daily struggle.

And, I think it likely you have found this to be true too.  And prayer is indeed hard work. So many distractions lure us away.

Yet one of Jesus key points on prayer was perseverance: “…yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs…” (Luke 11:8).  Often with prayer God requires that we ask, seek and knock, and keep on doing so.

A ministry available to all:

Who among us is denied prayer?  Even those in prison get to pray.  It’s a ministry you and I can have right now, in spite of any church position we may or may not hold or any worldly status.  Like several significant themes, primary to-dos, prayer is a thread that runs through the entire Bible.  It is somehow vital to God’s grand plan for us all and the coming of His kingdom in its fullest expression.

Prayer is pure ministry, an unspeakable privilege, and the way to power–the good kind of power.

I’m talking prayer alone before God (Matt. 6:6).

There we meet with God alone. Where there is no grandstanding, no trying to impress others, is there?  It is pure service to God, your fellow Christians, and humanity.

Think what a privilege it is.

To pray is to put yourself on God’s side, against evil and for the progress of His kingdom.  It’s a partnership really, though certainly an unequal one.  In prayer at its best we speak the will of God and make it our desire.

“I [God] searched for  a man among them who would…stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezek. 22:30)

It is the pathway to power.  (James 5:16B)

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:!6)  Grace is God’s power made available to us.

Years back John Wimber, pastor of the Vineyard in Anaheim, California, asked a believer who worshipped there, who often obtained healings for those he prayed for–why he was able to get those healings.  The believer answered, “I keep praying until it happens.” Persistence brings God’s power.

Let us not fail to pray.

Consistently, fervently, and humbly.  And see God come through.

_____________________________________________________
Suggested further reading:

With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray

The Ministry of Intercession A Plea for More Prayer by Andrew Murray

Lord, Teach me to Pray in 28 Days by Kay Arthur

George Müller of Bristol and his witness to a prayer-hearing God by Arthur T. Pierson

Quiet Talks on Prayer by S.D.(Samuel Dickey) Gordon

 

 

What does it mean to be Spiritual?

Opinions abound
There are a lot of opinions on that.  Some of them biblical, others not so much. But it’s a vital topic.

Are we walking like mere humans?
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men…are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Knowing what spirituality actually is, is important
We all need to have a solid grasp of what it means to live as a spiritual believer.  For one thing, it can help us avoid some unhelpful legalistic pathways that just lead to misery.  God want us to live joyfully.

Get the Kindle Version: it’s a bargain
I recently found a helpful book on the subject.  It’s available for a mere 95 cents (US) at Amazon.com in a Kindle version.

Note: even if you do not own a Kindle reader, you can still download a free computer version–and read, take notes, and copy text to your clipboard easily with it. Print versions are also available.  You can find some wonderful spiritual classics for the Kindle, often free or at least at great bargain prices, for example: edifying works by Andrew Murray, A. W. Tozer, Hannah Whital Smith, George Muller, Martin Luther, and others.

The author was a dynamic Evangelical leader
The writer was the late Lewis Sperry Chafer, an evangelist and theologian and co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary (originally Evangelical Theological College).  So expect this book to be quite conservative.

It’s solidly biblical
Like me, you  will likely not agree with the content of the book one-hundred-percent.  But to me, the teaching contained in it is solidly biblical.  Every major point Chafer makes is derived from the plain sense of a Bible verse and often a number of verses.  And reading this book can give you a solid foundation in no-nonsense spirituality.  I’m getting some helpful-to-me spiritual teaching from reading it.

Some chapter titles
It’s scholarly but a joy to read. Very reader-friendly and understandable.

Here’s some of the meaty chapters:

Three Classes of Men

The Ministries of the Spirit

The Filling of the Spirit, or True Spirituality

Grieve Not the Holy Spirit

Quench not the Spirit

Walk in the Spirit

Recommended  Try it. I think you’ll like it and find it helpful.

Probably the Best Book ever Written about the Body of Christ

A review of From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola (ISBN #  978-1-4347-6870-4.  Copyright 2009)

The Big Picture of God’s Plan for Mankind from Eternity.
Every generation, often more than once, a man or woman comes along who’s clearly called by God. They see the truth in God’s Word and proclaim it in a fresh way that opens our eyes.

It’s all there in the Bible
It’s not something made up or imaginary. Actually it was there all the time, inspired words waiting to be to be taken seriously, or waiting for discovery by a mind open and prepared to hear the Lord’s instruction.  Prepared to learn at the feet of the Lord Jesus.

And the Kingdom Moves Forward
Sometimes, and especially when that person’s message is heard, understood and heeded, a move of God occurs, and God’s Spirit moves powerfully on people. The progress of God’s Kingdom on earth as a this-world reality is augmented and goes forward.

I don’t often say that a particular person is a gifted Bible teacher. I’m rather hard to please.  But I say that about Frank Viola. His writings are must-reads. All of them.

I recommend all of his books
But this is one of his finest and most enlightening–From Eternity to Here. This book is powerful, can be life-changing, and definitely sets forth in a fresh and newly insightful look at the Church, the Body of Christ. It is solidly Scriptural from cover to cover, and also reading it can be both challenging and comforting at the same time.

The Real church
The real Church is not a building—we all know that. Nor is it a denomination, no matter how big, or this or that sect or an institution, no matter how impressive. The Church of Jesus Christ consists of all true born-again believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. And we experience the real thing when we fellowship and pray together. Not socialize or pass the time in casual conversation—although there is nothing wrong per se with causal conversation. But the Church is expressed, realized in visible form, when we share in mutual ministry the life of Jesus who is unfailingly present in the midst of those who gather in His name.

This is a book that should be read by every serious Christian, no matter the denomination or sector of the Church.

Try it. It will warm your heart and encourage your faith.