Book Review: “The Mentoring Church”


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If you read the literature, you’ll quickly find that churches are supposed to be (or CAN be) a wide variety of things. Churches are supposed to be Purpose-Driven, Simple, Center, etc. But one thing that I had not seen before was the idea of a mentoring church. So Phil Newton’s book from Kregel Publications caught my eye.

What does the book contribute to the conversation about churches and mentorship?

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Book Review: “She Reads Truth Bible”


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For several years now I have seen many of my female friends share posts on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook about a Bible reading plan and online community called She Reads Truth. It always seemed like these friends were encouraged by participating in this community and I was always glad to see people excited to get into God’s word.

More recently, I have been excited by all the new Bibles Holman Bible Publishers have been putting out. I previously reviewed the CSB Reader’s Bible and loved it, so when I saw that there was an opportunity to check out a new Holman Bible Publishers release and that the Bible was a collaboration with She Reads Truth, I knew that I had to take the opportunity.

So what is the verdict on the She Reads Truth Bible? What makes it unique and is it worth investigating for yourself? Let’s take a look together at this recent release from Holman.

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Book Review: “CSB Reader’s Bible”


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For those of us who have been reading the Bible for a while, there are parts of our reading experience that we take for granted. But these very same features make it a strange sort of book. Take verse numbers and study Bible notes. These can be incredibly helpful, but they also clutter up the page and are not found in most other types of books (aside from textbooks, religious works, and academic resources). And chapter numbers in the Bible are much more frequent than chapter breaks in other sorts of books. Additionally, they can artificially segment off our Bible reading into tidy little units that lose the important context of surrounding verses. This is not to mention section headings, headers, cross-references, and other features! These factors can be imposing to first-time readers of the Bible and also can keep us from experiencing the books of the Bible as belonging to the genres in which they were originally written: as a letter or group of poems or as a story.

In response to these potential issues, Bible publishers have begun to put out Bibles that they refer to as Reader’s Bibles. I already had an ESV Reader’s Bible, so when the chance to review a CSB Reader’s Bible came, I jumped at the opportunity.

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Review: “40 Questions about the Historical Jesus” by C. Marvin Pate


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40 Questions About the Historical Jesus fills a niche that relatively few other books on Jesus occupy. As the book’s introduction states, “there are many books that focus only on the background issues of the relationship of the historical Jesus to the Christ of faith” (9). These are issues of the historicity of the Gospels, what we can truly know about the man named Jesus of Nazareth that lived 2,000 years ago, and the like. “On the other hand, many other fine books about Jesus only summarize his life, ministry, death and resurrection as based on the Gospels” (ibid.). So some books primarily focus on the background while others focus on the contents of the Gospels as we now have them.

Both of these approaches have their values, but this is a book that distinctly aims to incorporate both background issues to Jesus and the Gospels as well as discussing the content of the Gospels. A brief glance at the table of contents reveals how Pate goes about this: Part 1 (Questions 1-11) addresses background questions about the historical Jesus, Part 2 (Q’s 12-19) includes questions on Jesus’ birth and childhood, Part 3 (20-32) covers questions about Jesus’ life and teachings, and Part 4 (33-40) zeroes in on the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

How does the book do in accomplishing its aims? I was impressed by the scope of the questions (everything from “When was Jesus born?” to “Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?” to “What is the main message of [Matthew/Mark/Luke/John] about Jesus?”) and by the well-researched and thoughtful answers.

Of course, like most books trying to serve as an introduction and reference to a subject as vast as the background to and contents of the accounts about Jesus, this is far from an exhaustive list of questions. For example, aware of some who question whether Jesus was actually crucified on a Friday or perhaps was crucified on a Wednesday (mainly due to a rigid interpretation of “3 days and 3 nights”), I tried to find a specific answer to those exact objections here in this book. Question 37 answers “Did Jesus remain in the tomb three nights and three days?” but mainly does so by presenting positive evidence for a buried-on-Friday-raised-on-Sunday interpretation rather than answering specific claims to the contrary. This is sufficient, but not precisely what I was looking for.

Still, this is a great resource that serves as an excellent starting place for investigating questions about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

4 stars out of 5


C. Marvin Pate. 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids, Kregel Academic, 2015. 408 pp. Paperback. $23.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

7 Great Study Bibles


Via challies.com, here is an excellent visual presentation of seven excellent study Bibles. I personally have the ESV Study Bible and love it.

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(p.s. Sorry for the lack of posts recently! Seminary is extra-demanding this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some more up soon!)

Praying the Promises: Isaiah 33:2


I have shared before on one method of praying through Scripture as a way to focus your attention during prayer and ground prayer in the soil of the Word. This has been a deeply fruitful and rewarding practice for me and I thought I would share a few verses that are personally meaningful that I use specifically in this way.

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Hence I am beginning a Praying the Promises mini-series here on the blog. I have no idea how many of these I might do (though it will probably be at least three or four more…and maybe more depending on how they go!) but I am excited to share these verses. I pray they will either be directly helpful or at least provide a model to use other Scriptures in this way!

The verse I have chosen to begin with is a more recent addition to the verses I pray through like this: Isaiah 33:2. In the ESV, it reads:

O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.

 Why I pray this verse: I was reading through Isaiah for my Old Testament Introduction class last year when I stumbled across this verse. It stood out to me because of some difficulties my family was going through at that time. Without even knowing it, I was looking for a way to express the helplessness and lack of ability I was feeling in my circumstances.

What I love about this verse is that it is an excellent way to begin a specific prayer for help. Praying this verse at the beginning of a request for provision, strength, wisdom, or myriad other topics begins the prayer on a solid foot and helps segue into that next thought. Now, especially when I’m praying for my family, this is one of my go-to verses to begin a prayer with.

How I pray this verse: An example of what this might look like is: “O LORD, please be gracious to me. I wait for you. Please be my strength (in Hebrew, being someone’s “arm” is a metaphor for being their strength or deliverance) every morning, not just when I think that I need you, and be my salvation in the time of trouble. Lord, I’m struggling with…

And that’s it! Now here’s where I put in my plug for Scripture memory. Can you pray this by looking it up in the Bible and praying after you find it? Of course! But how much better to know this or a verse like it intimately and be able to pray it wherever you go? And immediately in response to whatever circumstance comes your way!

I once heard someone define Scripture memory as “a way to give the Holy Spirit a vocabulary to speak to our heart.” While that’s true, I also believe Scripture memory is a way to give us a vocabulary to speak back to God.

So there you have it: the first verse in Praying the Promises.

What verse(s) do you use regularly in your times of prayer?

The Bible: A Perfect Treasure of Heavenly Instruction


We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;[1] that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,[2] and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter;[3] that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;[4] and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union[5] and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried.[6]

New Hampshire Confession of Faith

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, a Baptist confession of faith from the 19th Century, begins with this beautiful article on the Scriptures.

I love the phrase “God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter.” A perfect treasure indeed.

Also of interest is the last phrase: the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.

Do we try our opinion, conduct, and creeds by the Bible, or do we try the Scriptures by the standard of our opinions, our conduct, and our creeds?


[1] 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29-31; Psa. 119:11; Rom. 3:1-2

[2] 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38-39

[3] Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:4

[4] Rom. 2:12; John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47-48

[5] Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11

[6] 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59-60; Phil. 1:9-11

Keller’s Excellent Article on the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships


[Update 06/06 2:15 pm: A friend pointed me to Matthew Vines’ response to Keller’s review that I linked to in this post. It’s important to read this too as it seems that Keller has incorrectly ascribed the presence or absence of several arguments/topics to Vines. Both articles make great points and I commend their gracious tone. We’ll see if Keller has any sort of clarifying response.]

Tim Keller recently reviewed Matthew Vines’s God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same Sex Relationships (Convergent Books, 2014) and Ken Wilson’s A Letter to My Congregation (David Crum Media, 2014) on both his website and the gospel coalition website.

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Keller identifies five main arguments that come from both books and from the larger cultural discussion about homosexuality and the church. These arguments are:

  1. Knowing gay people personally.
  2. Consulting historical scholarship.
  3. Re-categorizing same sex relations.
  4. Revising biblical authority.
  5. Being on the wrong side of history.

In his typical erudite, graceful, and piercingly insightful fashion, Keller deconstructs each argument and shows why they just don’t hold water. Especially astute are his arguments that those who would eisegetically seek to use the Bible to defend homosexuality actually have more in common with those who read the Bible as sanctioning slavery than they might like (neither are supportable by the Scripture and both were universally rejected save for a highly controversial historical moment that never had anything close to consensus) and that the Western narratives of individual human worth and complete freedom of self expression that undergird our culture’s rapidly shifting sexual values are “not self-evident to most societies and they carry no more empirical proof than any other religious beliefs”-that is, they are just as much beliefs as any other system of beliefs.

But don’t take my word for it: it’s worth a slow and careful read. It’s the best article I’ve read all week, and I read a lot of articles (maybe too many…just ask my wife!). Head over to his church’s website to check it out.

Do you find his counterarguments compelling? What about his tone: is it respectful? Does this make you respect him more or less? Sound off in the comments!

A Fuller Understanding of the Scriptures (Or, To the sources! To the Fount!)


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‘Lord, thou hast given me a determination to take up no principle at second-hand; but to search for everything at the pure fountain of thy word.’ -Andrew Fuller

It’s tempting to base our theology on what the “experts” have concluded on the topic. Have a question about doctrine? Well what does Tim Keller say about the subject? What about John Piper? Has MacArthur chimed in on the subject? How does N.T. Wright approach it? If you’re feeling especially interested you might even go to what Jonathan Edwards, Wesley, Calvin, or Augustine have said on the subject.

But coming across this quote by Andrew Fuller was an excellent and timely reminder about the true source of doctrinal and theological principles. May God give us a similar determination to not settle for “second-hand” theology but to instead go directly to the Word with any and every idea like the Bereans in Acts 17, who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, ESV).

[Reblog] A Response to Newsweek on the Bible


Newsweek recently had a cover story on the Bible that got a lot of attention and made some pretty ridiculous claims. There have been some good responses to it so far, but this is one of the best I’ve read so far. If the original article raised some questions for you or someone you know or if you’re just curious and want to read how Michael Brown responds to the original, then definitely read it! Here’s a taste:

The real question is: How reliable are the Hebrew texts we have today, the ones used in the translation of the Old Testament? And how reliable are the Greek texts we have today, the ones used in the translation of the New Testament?

Actually, they are remarkably well-preserved, to the point that we can say that, with the exception of changes in spelling of words (like colour vs. color in English) and the adding of vowels (which are not part of the original Hebrew text), for the most part, when we read the Old Testament in Hebrew, we are reading the identical Hebrew texts that Jesus would have read in his hometown synagogue as a boy….[and] the truth is that the evidence for the reliability of our New Testament manuscripts massively outweighs the evidence against it…

The Bible is a coherent book with a coherent message, and it has been passed on to us carefully…sometimes [God] does speak in whispers and riddles so that we will seek him more earnestly and study his Word more seriously rather than trying to relate to him as if he could be reduced to a simple mathematical formula. Is it surprising that there is a level of mystery and wonder in our relationship with God? Are we arrogant enough to think that, as human beings, we can fully comprehend the Lord? Can all divine revelation be packaged in a neat little box? And it isn’t it fitting that God reveals himself to those who humble themselves?

Read more here: A Response to Newsweek on the Bible

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