Review: CSB Christ Chronological


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The four Gospels all cover the period of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. However, they do so at different paces and with different emphases. Sometimes they cover the same story: the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus’ crucifixion are in all four Gospels, for instance. But sometimes they don’t contain what the other Gospels cover or include details that the other Gospel writers did not incorporate into their account.

It is possible to study these differences by comparing the four Gospels as they are included in our New Testament: flipping back and forth from book to book and locating the corresponding passages. But ever since the Tatian’s Diatessaron in the 2nd century, people have produced Gospel harmonies where individuals attempt to arrange the contents of the Gospels in chronological order and put passages that cover the same events side-by-side for easy comparison.

The CSB Christ Chronological is one of the latest of these Gospel harmonies to be produced. How does it fare as a tool to study the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ chronologically?

The CSB Christ Chronological is a beautiful book. It is well designed and colorful without being garish or flashy. It is simple and straightforward and clearly identifies the portion of Jesus’ life in each section, the references from each Gospel quoted, and the different excerpts themselves.

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The above picture includes an example of a section of Jesus’ life included in all four Gospels: Jesus’ baptism. Note the references in the upper right corner to where it is found in each Gospel and how the accounts are all placed together. You can immediately make several observations comparing the accounts: Matthew and John have the longest accounts of this episode, all three Synoptic Gospels end with a version of “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased,” etc.

For visual clarity, each Gospel is assigned a different color for its text, which is displayed at the bottom of each page for reference.

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Additionally, some sections have introductions that discuss how the various Gospel accounts do or do not align with each other as well as the reasons behind this or possible harmonizations.

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When an account appears only in one Gospel, that section is inserted on its own. Note how the multiple accounts that are side-by-side at the top of the above page then shift to John 5 all by itself. The same goes for when a story, miracle, or teaching is found in only two or three of the Gospels.

So the CSB Christ Chronological is beautiful, designed well, has great colors, helps you make immediate comparisons between different sections of the Gospels…is anything missing?

Unfortunately, yes.

This resource lacks a Scripture index or even numbers for each individual section that align with other Gospel harmonies to reference. This initially might not seem like that big of an issue, but it drastically reduces the usefulness of the CSB Christ Chronological as a study tool.

Say, for instance, that I am interested in the story of Jesus healing two blind men and how the Gospels each do or don’t address it. How am I to find it in this book?

I might know that the reference for this episode in Mark is Mark 10:46-52. But that doesn’t help me that much without an index recording which page(s) Mark 10 is on in this book. I can manually skim through the book searching for it. But because this is a Gospel harmony and not all the Gospel writers arranged things strictly chronologically in their Gospels, I might run into some problems. For example, page 38 has the story of the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10) but then page 39 has Jesus’ answer to the question from John the Baptist (Matthew 11:1-19; Luke 7:18-35). It isn’t until page 48 that the harmony returns to Matthew 8 with the story of Jesus stilling the storm, found in Luke 8. The editors of the book have followed Luke’s chronology and assumed Matthew arranged his account more thematically than chronologically from Matthew 8 to Matthew 11 but have not given the reader a tool to follow what they are doing (e.g. an index).

Should a future edition of this book include a Scripture index, episode numbers, or some other way to quickly find a specific Gospel reference, this would be an excellent resource to aid in the study of the Gospels. However, without any sort of tool like this, the CSB Christ Chronological is much less useful and more suited to reading beginning to end devotionally than for study.

3 stars out of 5


CSB Christ Chronological. Holman Bible Publishers, 2017. 144 pp. Hardcover. $19.99.

Thanks to B&H Bloggers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

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The Gospel of Stranger Things


Since Stranger Things season 2 was released this weekend, here’s a satirical view on preaching and using cultural analogies:

 

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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 Quotes Worth Sharing from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis


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“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” —1 Corinthians  11:1 (ESV)

Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ has a strong claim to be the most-read book ever written aside from the Bible. What The Pilgrim’s Progress is to works written in English, The Imitation of Christ is to everything ever written.

So what’s so special about it? Why have countless individuals over the centuries since its publication treasured it and read it again and again?

Here are seven quotes to give you a taste for yourself of Thomas à Kempis’ classic on the Christian life. I highly recommend it—it’s one I enjoyed,was challenged by, and know that I will reread in the future.

1. Learning Must be Accompanied by Grace and Love

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? …I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? (1)

2. Liberty and joy are incomplete without the fear of the Lord.

No liberty is true and no joy is genuine unless it is founded in the fear of the Lord and a good conscience (18).

3.Christ is the Only One who will never fail us.

He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened….Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail (34).

4. Following Christ entails suffering as well as consolation.

Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his cross. he has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him (39).

5. No one (or no thing) is good except God alone.

He who considers anything great except the one, immense, eternal good will long be little and lie groveling on the earth. Whatever is not God is nothing and must be accounted as nothing (79).

6. The Disciple should glory in God alone.

Let Your name, not mine, be praised. Let Your work, not mine, be magnified, Let Your holy name be blessed, but let no human praise be given to me. You are my glory. You are the joy of my heart.

7. It is Grace alone that enables any goodness on our part.

What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?
Let your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Christ Jesus, Your Son.

10 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Preaching” by Tim Keller


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Tim Keller’s Preaching is another home-run. While perhaps not as life-changing or spectacular as Prayer, this volume is filled with insights and wisdom from cover to cover. The chapter on “Preaching and the (Late) Modern Mind” and the bibliography of the best other books on preaching are each worth the price of the book alone! 

And you don’t need to be a preacher to read it. “This book,” says Keller in the introduction, “aims to be a resource for all those who communicate their Christian faith in any way” (p. 4).

Here are ten quotes to give you a taste of Keller’s manifesto on preaching.

1. The Holy Spirit is critical in preaching

…while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher (11).

2. True and effective preaching must center on Christ.

To preach the text truly and the gospel every time, to engage the culture and reach the heart, to cooperate with the Spirit’s mission in the world—we must preach Christ from all of Scripture (23).

3. To leave Christ out of a sermon is to not finish the task of preaching.

Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can (48).

4. You cannot preach the gospel without preaching Christ.

To preach the gospel every time is to preach Christ every time, from every passage (57).

(sensing a theme, here?)

5. Culture shapes us more than we would care to admit.

It is a mistake to think that faithful believers in our time are not profoundly shaped by the narratives of modernity. We certainly are, and so when you unveil these narratives and interact with them in the ordinary course of preaching the Word, you help them see where they themselves may be more influenced by their society than by the Scripture, and you give them important ways of communicating their faith to others (118).

6. We find our true selves in Christ.

The process of sanctification, of growth into the likeness of Christ, is also, then, the process of becoming the true self God created us to be (139).

7. The gospel is “the right side of history.”

Such will always be the case. The philosophies of the world will come and go, rise and fall, but the wisdom we preach—The Word of God—will still be here (156).

8. Preaching must reach and capture the heart.

What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God….People, therefore, change not by merely changing their thinking but by changing what they love most (159-emphasis added).

9. Preaching can do so much more than just convey information.

A sermon that just informs the mind can give people things to do after they go home, but a sermon that moves the heart from loving career or acclaim or one’s own independence to loving God and his Son changes listeners on the spot (165).

10. End every sermon pointing the listeners to worship Christ

Resist ending your sermon with “live like this,” and rather end with some form of “You can’t live like this. Oh, but there’s one who did! And through faith with him you can begin to live like this too.” The change in the room will be palpable as the sermon moves from primarily being about them to being about Jesus. They will have shifted from learning to worship (179).

MLK The Baptist Preacher


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Among many, many other things, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist preacher. Much of the strength, dignity, and beauty of his message came from a worldview aligned with the gospel and in service of the King. In celebration of this day, his life, and his legacy, here are a few quotes of his from sermons:

  • “The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial” (from “Pilgrimage to Non-Violence,” 1960).
  • “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies” (from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon, 1957).

You can read more about Dr. King’s faith in this article on Christianity Today, where I read the above quotes: Today I’m Grateful for Dr. King

FREEsources: “Glorious Ruin” by Tullian Tchividjian


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Tullian Tchividjian’s book “Glorious Ruin” is FREE today (6/21) for Kindle, Nook, and many other e-reader devices. Just follow the link and pick out your preferred retailer and boom-you’ve got a free book!

From the publisher:

In this world, one thing is certain: Everybody hurts. Suffering may take the form of tragedy, heartbreak, or addiction. Or it could be something more mundane (but no less real) like resentment, loneliness, or disappointment. But there’s unfortunately no such thing as a painless life. In Glorious Ruin, best-selling author Tullian Tchividjian takes an honest and refreshing look at the reality of suffering, the ways we tie ourselves in knots trying to deal with it, and the comfort of the gospel for those who can’t seem to fix themselves—or others.

This is not so much a book about Why God allows suffering or even How we should approach suffering—it is a book about the tremendously liberating and gloriously counterintuitive truth of a God who suffers with you and for you. It is a book, in other words, about the kind of hope that takes the shape of a cross.

Via David C Cook Ebooks

Book Review: One Way Love


one-way-love-book It wasn’t until his recent exit from The Gospel Coalition that I started paying attention to Tullian Tchividjian. I’d heard his name before, read some of his blogs, and knew he was one of Billy Graham’s grandsons, but I couldn’t tell you much about him or what made him distinctive. But when he got caught up in the middle of a bit of controversy with TGC, I decided to start paying closer attention. There’s a bit of a debate/discussion in the Church right now over sanctification: what should the believer’s approach to it be, how should we preach on it, where does the power and motivation come from, etc. On the one hand you have folks who emphasize our own effort partnering with God in the process. On the other (and this is the camp Tchividjian is in), you have those whose sole focus is God’s grace-any effort on our part cannot be really mandated or exhorted but rather must come solely as a response to God’s grace. I personally think both sides are looking at the same coin and arguing that what they see on their side is more important. In other words, they are more similar than they would care to admit. But I had more of an outsider’s perspective on it than anything-I wasn’t up to date on what each side had said in the past and what they really believed. This is the lens that I read “One Way Love” through-what does Tullian say about the role of grace in our lives once we’ve trusted Christ with our life and salvation? But that’s not the only answer that I got in the process. First, the Pros of the book:

  • Tullian shares much of his personal story throughout the book. To say that he identifies with the Prodigal Son is an understatement. I hugely appreciated his humility and vulnerability-not many believers, let alone pastors, would feel comfortable being so open about where they’ve come from.
  • Tullian’s writing style is conversational and warm-he’s not writing from some distant ivory tower or insecurely lashing out at his critics, but rather sharing his life and beliefs. It’s easy to identify with and to like Tullian.
  • Tullian uses many great sources to add to or flesh out some of his points. Tim Keller, Jerry Bridges, Brennan Manning, and Paul M.F. Zahl are just a few of those he references. You get the feeling that Tullian’s done his homework in researching what others have to say about grace and its role in our lives.
  • Tullian champions grace. You can’t read too much of the book without his passion and love for the grace of God dripping off the page. This is a very good and refreshing thing.

There are, however, some Cons to the book:

  • The book’s structure. Tullian says in the beginning that the book is adapted from a series of sermons…and it shows. It’s not a major flaw, but there are definitely ways where the book might have worked better if it had been designed as a book from the beginning. The book can be a tad repetitive at times.
  • Tullian seems to generalizes those who are on the other side of the sanctification divide. This is, to an extent, unavoidable. But I couldn’t help but think several times “Do people really preach that way? Do people really teach that way?” I know Tullian has a lot of personal experience here that I don’t…but I don’t feel he backed up some of the claims he made about the “opponents of grace alone.”

In summary: I enjoyed “One Way Love” and had some definite personal takeaways. His descriptions of what unconditional grace looks like in marriage and relationships in general were especially convicting and inspiring. My eyes were opened to just how conditional my love often is and I was reminded of my constant need of grace.  post-tbird I also thought his discussion in Chapter 10 of how total depravity affects Christians both before and after conversion to be very interesting (and worth some more thought). As Tullian says, “We never outgrow our need for grace–ever” (p 219). post-tbird  This book is an excellent reminder of that, wherever we are on our journey of faith.