Thursday, October 30, 2014

What I've been reading - "Old Testament Essentials" by Tremper Longman

I have to be honest, I find many Bible study guides very frustrating. I find too many are far too shallow for my liking. There is far too much fluff out there or too many that are focused on helping one work through a very particular issue, which in my opinion, only feeds the problem of seeing the Bible as more of a fix-it manual than the unfolding story of God. A little while ago I was recommended a study called "Discipleship Essentials" (IVP) as a good study to work through with someone wanting to grow in their faith journey. When I looked it up I saw that this was an older series that IVP was in the process of reviving with not only an updated "Discipleship Essentials" but new titles as well, including "Old Testament Essentials" by Tremper Longman III. I picked it up for my own study, but more importantly to evaluate for future use. This study is by no means a lightweight, it requires time and commitment to work through and yet doesn't require a degree to dive into it. It is broken into 17 lessons and is over 200 pages in length. Each lesson is broken into a Bible Study with readings and questions, an essay giving background and significance of the section just studied, Anticipating the New Testament showing how this section looks forward and finally, The Ancient Story and Our Story which helps connect this section to life today.

Overall, I found this to be a good study as the big picture of the Old Testament is lacking in many people's understandings. Too often it is taught merely as a collection of Bible stories that we can learn some moral lesson from and not as a cohesive piece of God's story. The reality is, New Testament and the work of Christ can only be clearly seen through the story of the Old Testament. This study is great guide through the major themes of the Old Testament and not only how they set up the New Testament but also how to read them back through the lens of Christ.

I also really like the format of this series of studies. At present, this is the only one I have worked through in its entirety but I have picked up the New Testament, Witness, Discipleship and Leadership studies and at least skimmed them and they all appear to be of high calibre.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What I've been reading - "With" by Skye Jethani

I was introduced to Skye Jethani through is participation in the Phil Vischer Podcast. Phil is the creator of VeggieTales and What's in the Bible. While we're talking about what I've been reading, Phil's "Me, Myself & Bob" is another must read. It was a very enlightening look at the rise, and fall, of VeggieTales.

Anyway, back to Skye's book, I found With to be one of the best spiritual formation books I've read in a long time. Skye lays out four postures we can take in our approach to God: Under, Over, From and For. What he does well is that he only in passing connects these to pagan ways but rather shows how these postures manifest themselves in the church today. What I found particularly helpful was how he talked about the college aged young adults he's worked with who had grown up in the church, heavily influenced under one of these postures and had found their faith coming up empty. He then takes us to the posture we were truly created to be in, that of being With God. He goes back to the garden where God walked with Adam and Eve until sin broke their relationship.He goes on to show that God made the ultimate move to restore our relationship in the incarnation where Jesus came and walked with us again.

Page after page, I found myself resonating with Skye and was encouraged to continue my walk With God.