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Book Review: Gospel Transformation (Second Edition), by World Harvest Mission

Recommended. The best study on how the gospel changes all of life that I’ve come across to date.

If you’re like me, you believe that, somehow, the good news of God’s love for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–that is, the gospel–changes absolutely everything about our lives on this planet. From the way we approach our work to the way we love our families to the inner workings of our hearts and minds: the gospel changes it all.

But then, if you’re really like me, what that practically looks like each day can be a bit challenging to figure out. If only there was a rich resource that we could work through each day to prompt our hearts and minds to slowly chew and digest the nourishing facets of God’s good news.

That’s why Gospel Transformation has been rocking my world since I received it from New Growth Press. Each of the thirty-six lessons in the course is rich with the practical implications of the gospel. As I’ve worked through the lessons, I’ve been amazed how, day after day, I’m given so much material for contemplation and application that I need to allot a week or more to each lesson.

In GT, I daily find new ways of thinking about the age-old things most precious to the Christian–the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and this news’ implications for all of life.

The 36 lessons of GT are divided into six units, and, to give you an idea of the topics covered, I’ll include the lesson titles as well (I’m having trouble getting the formatting to work correctly, so bear with me):

  • Unit 1: Introducing the gospel
    • God’s story–your story
    • Broken world, broken lives
    • Our need for the gospel
    • A new reputation
    • A new family
    • Sinners in the hands of a loving God
  • Unit 2: Enemies of the gospel
    • Idolatry
    • Self-centeredness
    • The flesh: lust
    • The flesh: anger
    • Satan and the World
    • False repentance
  • Unit 3: Believing the gospel
    • Living by faith
    • United with Christ
    • Believing God and his promises
    • Living in light of the cross
    • Who am I: “saint” or “sinner”?
    • Barriers to believing
  • Unit 4: The power of the gospel
    • Genuine repentance
    • Repentance and transformation
    • The power of the Spirit
    • The desires of the Spirit
    • Life in the Spirit
    • Grieving the Spirit
  • Unit 5: The fruit of the gospel
    • Love: the expression of faith
    • Fruit of the Spirit
    • Imitating Christ
    • Prayer of the heart
    • The goal of sanctification
    • A new community is born
  • Unit 6: The gospel in relationships
    • The wrong use of laws
    • The gospel is for others
    • Incarnation
    • Forgiveness and compassion
    • Honesty versus judging
    • Barriers to love

Another positive aspect of GT is that it is a flexible resource. It’s ideal for group study but can also fruitfully serve as a personal devotional guide. I used it in the latter capacity while preparing for this review, and I feel like my daily times with God are richer than they have been in a long while.

Two recommendations that I would make in using GT are, first, to use the comprehensive leader’s notes in the back to enrich your understanding of some of the tough questions asked in the lessons, and, second, to take the time to actually look up and read the Scripture references used throughout both the lessons and the leaders notes.

Special thanks to Suzy Knapp for pointing me towards this incredible resource — I pray many will hear about it through this review and be changed by it!

Buy it at New Growth Press.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Quick Thoughts on the Introduction to Gospel Transformation (Second Edition)

I just received a review copy of World Harvest Mission’s Gospel Transformation (Second Edition), and when I cracked it open last night I was immediately rewarded with some meaty exposition on the gospel. The intro contained four points:

1. Cheer up! You’re more loved than you can imagine

2. Cheer up! You’re more terrible than you think

3. Cheer up! The Holy Spirit can empower you to change

4. Cheer up! God’s Kingdom is better than you can imagine

If you’re at all interested in what the gospel has to do with all of life, or of how the gospel changes everything, I recommend picking this up! It’s set up as a 36-lesson study, so it can be done with small groups or alone. Look for a review at a later date.

Book Review: Believing God, by R. C. Sproul Jr.

  • R. C. Sproul Jr.
  • Reformation Trust
  • February 2009
  • 139 pp.

Recommended. A book that opens our eyes wider to the bigness of the goodness of God.

Here’s a book that any reader of the Bible should be thankful for: Sproul Jr. takes on some of the most unbelievable promises in the Bible and exhorts us, through anecdotes, logic, and theology, to believe them.

The promises covered:

  1. All Scripture is Profitable… (2 Tim 3:16)
  2. Our Heavenly Father Loves Us (1 John 3:1)
  3. Confession, Forgiveness, and Cleansing (1 John 1:9)
  4. Wisdom for the Asking (James 1:5)
  5. Children are a Heritage (Psalm 127)
  6. The Desires of Your Heart (Psalm 37:4)
  7. Open Windows of Heaven (Malachi 3:10)
  8. Mountains Cast into the Sea (Mark 11:22-24)
  9. All Things Work Together (Romans 8:28)
  10. He Has Overcome the World (John 16:33)
  11. The Good Work Shall be Completed (Philippians 1:6)
  12. We Shall be Like Him (1 John 3:2)

When reading this book, I encourage you to read each chapter–not just the ones you think you struggle believing. For example, all Bible-believing Christians believe that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). However, too often we stop there, neglecting to notice that God has promised that all Scripture is profitable, for example, for “training in righteousness.” This means that all Scripture (including Leviticus!) is profitable for our growing in Christlikeness. When’s the last time we pondered that?

From explaining how, indeed, faith can move more than mountains, and how children certainly are a heritage and a blessing, despite the inconveniences that our society sometimes paints them as,  Believing God is a great book to pick up and read a chapter a day. In doing so, readers will find that the actual living God of the gospel is much bigger than our rationality often assumes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: The Whole Bible Story, by Dr. William H. Marty

Recommended. A straightforward telling of the biblical narrative by a respected Bible teacher.

The narrative of redemptive history–God’s work in and throughout creation and human history, with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as a focal point–can be difficult for beginning Bible readers to find. Many are those who have set out to read the Bible from cover to cover only to stall out in the second half of Exodus (the law-giving and the tabernacle instructions) or Leviticus. In The Whole Bible Story: Everything that Happens in the Bible in Plain English, I believe Dr. William Marty of Moody Bible Institute has provided a useful tool for grasping the Bible’s story.

TWBS takes on a specific task: to tell the story of the Bible. It is narrative, pure and simple. Marty does not attempt to include laws, discourses, prophecies, parables, poetry, or epistles. He has a laser focus–the give readers the storyline of the Old and New Testaments–and he shows humility in providing just that. I couldn’t find any portion of the text where Marty takes undue creative liberties, and thus this isn’t a book for readers who expect a modern take on the biblical storyline. It reads more like the Bible than it does Dan Brown.

Marty is aware and explicit about his book’s limits. He has not written a paraphrase (e.g., The Message), and, to his credit, he clearly states in his introduction that he in no way intends for TWBS to take the place of Bible reading. Instead, Marty hopes that TWBS will motivate more Bible reading, as an understanding of the biblical narrative will give readers greater access to the riches found even in texts like Leviticus.

I recommend this book as a companion to the Bible you might give to a new believer, and I also think it’s a nice refresher course for those who have read the Bible through numerous times.

Notice: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this product, free of charge. However, the publisher has clearly expressed that I have the right, under no penalty, to honestly review this title, whether that review be positive or negative.

Book Review: The Holy Bible — 1611 King James Version, 400th Anniversary Edition

Recommended. A beautifully presented, word-for-word look at a 400-year old text.

After reading Jon Sweeney’s Verily, Verily, I couldn’t help but be drawn to reading the KJV. And, if you’re going to read it, why not go back to the original 1611 version? That’s exactly the opportunity that Thomas Nelson’s 1611 KJV — 400th Anniversary Edition affords its readers. Between the two beautifully detailed hardcovers, you won’t find a jot or tittle from the publisher. Instead, you’ll find, as the title page explains, “A word-for-word reprint of the First Edition of the Authorized Version presented in roman letters for easy reading and comparison with subsequent editions.”

And “word-for-word” could easily be “letter-for-letter.” Just as in the original 1611 documents, u’s and v’s are flip-flopped, ‘be’ reads as ‘bee’, and your faith can cast ‘mountaines’ into the sea instead of mountains. You’d be hard pressed to find a sentence that doesn’t use spelling that would today be unconventional. This takes a minute to get used to, but, once you do, it’s hard not to smile at the feeling of being transported to a time much different from ours. The Bible comes in a well-crafted box, and, since the publisher could place its blurbs on that, the book adds to this feeling of transportation by having no extraneous markings on any part of it.

I was surprised to find the apocrypha included between the Old and New Testaments. Sweeney might have mentioned that the First Edition included apocrypha, but, if he did, I didn’t remember it. This is my first Bible that includes the apocrypha, and, though I don’t believe that they are the inspired Word of God, I am interested to read them for background knowledge. One drawback to this is that, when you crack open the middle of your Bible, you don’t land in the Psalms.

One additional feature worth mentioning is the included booklet, “KJV 400: Celebrating the Legacy of the Bible.” In twenty or so full-color pages, readers are given good reason to appreciate the KJV in general and the First Edition in particular.

All in all, the 1611 KJV — 400th Anniversary Edition makes a great addition to a study library and a nice change of pace if you’re accustomed to reading more modern translations. Also, because it is so beautifully presented, it would make a great gift for those who appreciate good books.

 

Notice: Thomas Nelson provided me with a free review copy of this product. However, the publisher has clearly expressed that I have the right, under no penalty, to honestly review this title, whether that review be positive or negative.

Martin Luther on the book of Romans

The other night in a Bible Survey class, our professor was overviewing the book of Romans, and he shared this quotation from Martin Luther’s preface to Romans:

“This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture” (Complete preface located here.)

What’s the Message of the Bible in One Sentence?

I heard about this on Kevin DeYoung’s blog — Dane Ortlund, Senior Editor in the Bible division at Crossway, asked twenty-five pastors and scholars the question mentioned above in a single sentence. Their answers (located here) are great food for thought!

One thing I found interesting was the variety of answers — some are quite long, some very short, some focus on covenant, others on redemption, many mention Christ’s name, others imply Christ.

May these sentences stir our hearts and lead us to a deeper love for the Bible.